The Indian selectors should not have too many headaches when they meet in Mumbai on Tuesday to select India's 15-man squad for the ICC World Cup. Ravindra Jadeja's availability will be the only point of concern after the all-rounder withdrew from Test series in Australia with a shoulder injury. Jadeja will skip the tri-series starting with an Australia versus England clash in Sydney on January 16. India start against the hosts on January 18 at Melbourne.
Jadeja is undergoing rehabilitation at the new BCCI centre in Chennai under physiotherapist Nitin Patel. The national selectors will be given an updated report on Jadeja's progress. In December, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel had said Jadeja would need about four weeks to recover completely. If things go to plan, the Saurashtra all-rounder should be fit in the next two weeks. (For Yuvraj, India Door is Closed: Ganguly)
Most of the 15-man squad for India's defence of the World Cup pretty much selects itself. On December 10, the selectors had named a 30-man probables list, choosing to ignore five big names that did India proud in the 2011 World Cup. Among them, there is a flicker of hope for Yuvraj Singh, whose current domestic form has been prolific.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan has had a tough time in the ongoing Test series but he should retain his place at the top. Rohit Sharma, the only man to slam two ODI double hundreds, should also make the cut in spite of poor performances in the two Test matches he played in Adelaide and the Gabba. The explosive Virat Kohli will be expected to lead the batting group while Ajinkya Rahane, peaking steadily in limited overs cricket, will bring up the rear with Suresh Raina and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. (India Can't Carry Passengers to World Cup: Gavaskar)
India have played Jadeja at No. 7 as the bowling all-rounder in recent times, but even if he fails to prove his match-fitness in time for the showpiece event, they have Akshar Patel ready to take over the mantle. The 20-year-old has impressed in his nine ODIs and showed he can be firm with the bat under pressure. Ravichandran Ashwin, India's top off-spinner since Harbhajan Singh was sidelined, is another automatic choice. He is no mug with the bat either. Yuvraj will be a strong contender here.
The pace bowling department would be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who missed the first three Tests against the Aussies with an injured ankle. Since making his debut in 2012, Kumar has been India's best new-ball operator, having taken 44 wickets in 42 ODIs, giving away just 4.60 runs an over. Mohammad Shami, who finished as the joint highest wickettaker in ODIs last year, will share the new ball with Bhuvi while Ishant Sharma is another certainty.
The selectors are unlikely to throw any surprises but it would be interesting to see if they bring back Murali Vijay into the limited overs side. He has been in spectacular form in the Test matches and the Tamil Nadu batsman could well be selected as the back-up opener. Karnataka's wicketkeeper batsman Robin Uthappa could be another dark horse. He made it back into the Indian side in the home series against Sri Lanka on the back of some strong performances in the domestic circuit and he is likely to retain his place as reserve wicketkeeper. Bengal's Wriddhiman Saha could also be in the race to be selected as reserve wicketekeeper. He can bat in all formats and is considered to be the best glovesman in the country. Saha's presence in the Indian dressing-room Down Under could also help his cause.
Probable 15-man squad for World Cup:
Batsmen: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay,
Wicketkeepers: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa/Wriddhiman Saha
All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Akhsar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny/Yuvraj Singh
Bowlers: Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma