The warm-up game between India and New Zealand as both teams try to acclimatize to English conditions serves as the ideal platform for the Men in Blue to experiment and switch things around with their team selection.
Although the team is expected to field a relatively stable XI, any lingering questions as to certain players deserving their spot in the starting XI or certain fringe players deserving to get a look-in will be answered in the two warm-up matches that the team plays ahead of the official tournament kickoff.
With the reported injury to Vijay Shankar, the jinxed number 4 spot in the team is wide open once again and we speculate on that, among other things India would want to try out against New Zealand.
#1 The number 4 spot
After Vijay Shankar’s reported injury yesterday, KL Rahul or Dinesh Karthik is likely to play in the number 4 position against New Zealand. That is assuming that the Tamil Nadu batsman’s withdrawal from the net session yesterday wasn’t just a precaution.
If Shankar is fit to play, India would do well to let him keep his spot in the XI so as to bed him in ahead of the official World Cup kickoff game against South Africa.
If not, this would be a wonderful opportunity for either Dinesh Karthik or KL Rahul to stake their claim.
#2 Fitting in MS Dhoni
Conventional wisdom would suggest that MS Dhoni would slot in comfortably at the number 5 slot in the XI, but should two quick wickets fall, sending him up at number 4 to stabilize the innings and play the long game wouldn’t be a bad thought process.
As he’s aged, MS Dhoni has become less of a full-time destroyer and more of an accumulator with bursts of destruction. With his experience and temperment, the Indian team think tank actually has a decision to make whether pushing him up to number 4 isn’t that bad of an idea at all.
#3 Bowling combination
2 pacemen and 2 spinners or 3 quicks and 1 slower bowler? Virat Kohli has a decision to make ahead of the World Cup depending on the type of conditions they are likely to encounter in England.
And there’s no better way to judge that than by playing the game against New Zealand. One way or another, we’d know after this match if India should go with the trio of Bhuvi-Bumrah-Shami or play both Chahal and Yadav.
#4 Ravindra Jadeja – a canny option
A bowling all-rounder like Jadeja, who can fit into the role of the second spinner while offering an electric outlet in the field and some useful runs lower down the order, could be a wise option in the World Cup.
He wouldn’t have to play against every team but could offer the decision making flexibility that Kohli needs in big matches against the better opposition. And since New Zealand certainly count as one, it may be a good time to start with Jadeja.
#5 The KL Rahul conundrum
Flat out KL Rahul is just too talented to be in and out of the Indian ODI setup.
He does have the chink in his armour with the incoming ball (so did Tendulkar, by the way), but the lad is quite a treat to watch when he’s on full flow and is undoubtedly a match-winner on his day.
Perhaps, finding a way to incorporate him into the batting setup instead of trying to make him vie for one spot with the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar – no offence to them – would be a smarter course of action.
If you want to back a player and give him confidence, what better stage to do it on than the World Cup?