Right-hand batting heavy India strong favourites yet again

With the momentum of Asia Cup title and series win against Australia, India would want to go all the way at home

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Virat Kohli and R Ashwin are the only two in the current squad from India's victorious 2011 campaign  •  AFP via Getty Images

Virat Kohli and R Ashwin are the only two in the current squad from India's victorious 2011 campaign  •  AFP via Getty Images

World Cup pedigree: India are the second-best World Cup team after Australia. Apart from winning it in 1983 and 2011, they have been losing finalists in 2003 and losing semi-finalists in 1987, 1996, 2015 and 2019. Ever since their early departure from the 2007 edition, India have entered every World Cup as one of the favourites, if not strong contenders.
Recent form: In mid-to-long term, India's build-up to the World Cup was full of anxiety. Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Prasidh Krishna, five key players that India had invested in, were on the shelf. As the tournament approached, though, Bumrah, Rahul and Iyer made not just complete recoveries but also immediate returns to form. Kuldeep Yadav's reinvigorated left-arm wristspin remains a point of difference.
Consequently, India enter the tournament with the momentum of having won the Asia Cup and the bilateral series against Australia. They are now strong favourites especially with other teams now beginning to encounter poor luck with injuries. There remain two drawbacks: their batting is right-hand heavy and their tail is long, which necessitates playing a lesser bowler at No. 8 for the freedom that provides the top seven.
Selection: Once the players were fit and available, 12 of them chose themselves. For the back-up fast bowler, India went for the experienced Mohammed Shami ahead of Prasidh because in the current combination they need a bowler who will also make use of the new ball. Prasidh's speciality remains providing the point of difference in the middle overs. The selectors and the team management have opted for the extra batter in Suryakumar Yadav purely on promise even though his List A record is not as good as his T20 exploits.
The final slot of the spinner who could bat originally went to Axar Patel because he also provided a left-hand batter who could be promoted up the order to counter match-ups, but a late injury opened the door for the return of R Ashwin, who, apart from Virat Kohli, is the only former World Cup winner in the squad.
Squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Mohammed Shami, R Ashwin
Key player: Of all the injured players, India were most desperate to get Bumrah back on the park. When they lost him on the eve of the T20 World Cup last year, they received confirmation that Bumrah is not replaceable. Capable of taking wickets in every phase of the game, he is also India's big hope at the death, which can be their weakness at times. Hearteningly for them, Bumrah showed no ring rust on return, and even seemed to have added a late and more consistent outswinger to his armoury.
Rising star: A bit of a misnomer because Shubman Gill has already risen. ODIs happen to be his best format: he has already scored six centuries in 35 innings, including a double. Five of the centuries have come this year. He opens the innings and can bat through, which gives him the best chance to score runs by the bucketful. He is many people's bet to be the top scorer in this World Cup.
World Cup farewells? Ashwin has somehow found his way back into two World Cups in the last two years, but he will definitely not be playing the one in 2027. That out of the way, it is doubtful if their two biggest batters of this era, Kohli and Rohit Sharma, will be around in four years' time. Shami will be past 37 when the next World Cup rolls in, and it is getting increasingly difficult for Ravindra Jadeja to stay fit for all formats. Rahul has had his share of struggle with injuries, but he will be only 35 at the time of the next World Cup.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo