KL Rahul has been included in India’s World Cup squad despite not having played any competitive cricket since May this year. Rahul, the first-choice wicketkeeper, 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 one of two wicketkeeper-batters in the squad along with Rahul. 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 doubling up as a reserve middle-order batter, the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee also picked Suryakumar Yadav in the squad despite middling ODI numbers – an average of 24.22 with two half-centuries in 24 innings.
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 rehabilitation at the NCA, but was then ruled out of the first two matches after picking up a new niggle.
Last week, India head coach Rahul Dravid expressed satisfaction with Rahul’s recovery while also explaining they 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.
Jasprit Bumrah spearheads the pace attack that includes Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur. Kuldeep Yadav is the frontline wristspinner, with Axar Patel, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya as the three genuine allrounders. The squad lacks an offspinner.
While the deadline to submit the World Cup squad to the ICC is September 5, teams can make changes until September 28 without needing an approval from the ICC. This gives India three more ODIs against Australia after the Asia Cup to give players such as Rahul and Shreyas 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, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah