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KL Rahul, Shardul Thakur in India's World Cup squad

Prasidh Krishna and Tilak Varma are the two players from the Asia Cup squad who missed the cut

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
KL Rahul has been included in India's ODI World Cup squad despite not having played any competitive cricket since May this year. Rahul, India's first-choice wicketkeeper-batter in the format, is currently preparing to fly out to Sri Lanka for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup after passing a fitness assessment at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru on September 4.
Middle-order batter Tilak Varma and fast bowler Prasidh Krishna are the two players from the current squad of 17 in Sri Lanka to have missed out, along with Sanju Samson, who is a reserve player at the Asia Cup.
Ishan Kishan has retained his place as the other wicketkeeper-batter in the squad. Kishan underscored his utility by top-scoring with 82, his fourth successive ODI half-century, in India's rained-out Asia Cup opener against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2.
Despite Kishan's form raising the possibility of him playing as a specialist middle-order batter, the selectors also picked Suryakumar Yadav in the 15 - Suryakumar, a T20 giant, has middling ODI numbers, an average of 24.22 with two half-centuries in 24 innings, and has confessed to not quite being able to crack the 50-over game.
Rahul, who last played an ODI in March this year, tore a tendon in his right thigh during the IPL and had to undergo surgery in May. He was selected in the Asia Cup squad following extensive rehab at the NCA, but was then ruled out of the first two matches after picking up a fresh niggle.
"We had a couple of fitness issues that we had to look at, but all three [Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer], who had long-term injuries have come through," India's chief selector Ajit Agarkar said in a press conference. "KL is looking good. We feel this gives us the best balance to try and do well. With KL, he was part of the camp in Bangalore, he looked really good there, has got over his niggle. He played a couple of games over the last two days. I think he kept for 50 overs and batted for around 50 overs too, so he looks good and we're happy to have him."
Last week, Rahul Dravid had expressed satisfaction with Rahul's recovery while also explaining that India were taking a "slightly more cautious approach" with him. Since then, Rahul has been at the NCA working with head physio Nitin Patel and had a match simulation exercise on Monday to test his level of readiness.
Bumrah will lead the pace attack that includes Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami, as well as fast-bowling allrounders Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur. Kuldeep Yadav is the frontline wristspinner, with Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja the left-arm spin-bowling allrounders. The squad doesn't have a specialist offspinner.
"Clearly there will be discussions given we have both Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel who spin the ball into left-handers," Agarkar said. "[But] both give us depth in batting. Kuldeep takes the ball away. In 50 overs cricket, perhaps you would ideally want an offspinner but this gives us the best balance. Seamers tend to bowl a lot more in ODIs as compared to T20 cricket, and perhaps you're a little more under pressure if you don't have an offie, so we're happy with the guys we have."
While the deadline to submit the World Cup squad to the ICC is September 5, teams can make changes until September 28 without needing approval from the ICC. This gives India three more ODIs against Australia after the Asia Cup to give players such as Rahul and Iyer more game time. India open their World Cup campaign on October 8, when they take on Australia in Chennai.

India's World Cup squad

Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo