India will play its first ODI series at home after winning the World Cup in April when it takes on England next month in five ODIs starting in Hyderabad. Yet, rather than the series being a welcome return home for the current world champions, the squad is likely to look very different from the one that won the title as injury problems that stalked the team on its tour of England show no signs of abating. The team will be announced on Thursday but ESPNcricinfo understands that Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh are unlikely to be fit in time, while Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel are also set to miss out.
Tendulkar continues to struggle with his toe injury and his absence raises the question of how much more ODI cricket he will play, especially considering that outside of the World Cup, he has played only two ODIs this year.
Rohit's broken finger that ruled him out of the Champions League Twenty20 should also keep him out against England, while the ligament damage to Yuvraj's finger is not healing fast enough. Meanwhile Ishant's ankle is still ginger and he's unlikely to be risked for the series. Ishant has said the ankle needs surgery but he is holding off until after the tour of Australia. Keeping him out of the series could be a precautionary measure to have him ready later in the year. Munaf injured his ankle during the ODIs against England and missed the Champions League.
On the plus side, Gautam Gambhir has recovered from his concussion and is playing for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Champions League. With so many players out, Ajinkya Rahane, who impressed in England, should keep his place. It could also open the door for Yusuf Pathan to make a return to the side after he was not selected for the tour of England.
Given that Zaheer Khan is already missing, the big question is the composition of India's pace attack. Do the selectors fall back on Ashish Nehra, who has declared himself fit (no one from the board has spoken to him though) and has been bowling at full tilt in the nets over the last six weeks? Or do they plump for a completely new line-up fashioned around Praveen Kumar, with the likes of Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Jaydev Unadkat, Abhimanyu Mithun and Vinay Kumar in the reckoning? The choices the selectors make will indicate how they plan to restock India's bowling resources and whether they are thinking about the future.
The identity of the spinners is also open to question, though to lesser degree. Harbhajan Singh is fit again and is the conventional, safe choice, but the pair of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha could be worth a gamble. Ashwin played in the 0-3 series loss to England and the selectors might want to see how effective he is in helpful conditions.
India won the World Cup in April in grand style but have struggled somewhat since. They won the first three ODIs on the West Indies tour but lost the two dead rubbers, before going down 0-3 to England, though they did manage a tie in the fourth game of that series.