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How India’s World Cup squad has evolved since England 2019: The 7 key transformations

Let’s explore the seven noteworthy changes that set apart India’s 2023 World Cup squad from the one that graced the English grounds four years ago.

A sea of change has swept through the cricketing landscape since the last 50-over World Cup graced English shores. Those were the days untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the world witnessed Roger Federer’s last Wimbledon final hurrah. Saliva still held its place as a legitimate tool to enhance the ball’s shine, and batters were commonly known as batsmen. Here’s another fascinating trivia: Barring Kane Williamson, all 10 team captains have stepped down from their roles, MS Dhoni was still an active player and Rohit Sharma was struggling to break into India’s Test XI.

Cricket thrives on evolution, and the Indian cricket team has embodied this spirit. As we stand just one month away from the eagerly awaited kick-off of the 2023 World Cup in India, the squad unveiled on Tuesday represents a seismic shift in several dimensions. Nearly half of the players who represented India under the leadership of Virat Kohli in 2019 have been left behind. With this backdrop, let’s delve into the 7 significant transformations that distinguish India’s 2023 World Cup squad from the one that graced the grounds of England four years ago.

1 IN: SHUBMAN GILL; OUT: SHIKHAR DHAWAN

It’s rather unfair that Shikhar Dhawan’s time in ICC tournaments ended with an unfortunate injury. A true titan in 50-over ICC tournaments, Dhawan’s stellar performance left a resounding mark. He amassed an impressive 1238 runs, and could have added so many more had he not fractured his thumb after scoring a scintillating century against Australia at The Oval. With time, Dhawan fell behind in the pecking order and a bright young star emerged in the form of Shubman Gill. Dhawan’s performances were by no means lacking; in fact, he was India’s second highest ODI scorer in 2022 with 688 runs from 22 innings, but his dipping strike-rate was a concern. Meanwhile, Gill’s exuberance of youth shone through and scores of 116, 208, and 112, to go with a jaw-dropping tally of 890 runs in the IPL, effectively shut the doors on Dhawan’s ODI career. As Gill sets out on his maiden World Cup journey, India would consider themselves lucky if he can follow in Dhawan’s footsteps.

2 IN: SHREYAS IYER; OUT: VJAY SHANKAR/RISHABH PANT

The No. 4 enigma has long haunted Indian cricket, but it reached its peak during the 2019 World Cup as Kohli and Ravi Shastri grappled with the solution, shuffling between KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, and Rishabh Pant. Rahul initially held the reins of the No. 4 spot, but was thrusted into the opener’s role after injury to Shikhar Dhawan. This prompted India to experiment with Vijay Shankar, which in turn led to the dramatic retirement saga of Ambati Rayudu, who later reversed his decision. However, Shankar’s brief stint, yielding just 58 runs from three matches, was curtailed by an inexplicable toe injury, forcing him to withdraw.

Amid the tumult, Pant, a name that had captured headlines due to his initial omission, was swiftly summoned from India. Despite his valiant efforts, amassing 116 runs from four innings, the damage was already done. Fortunately, the storm surrounding the No. 4 spot seems to have subsided with the emergence of Shreyas Iyer. In 2022, Shreyas cemented his status as India’s premier ODI run-scorer, accumulating an impressive 724 runs from 17 innings. And his tally of 818 runs in 18 innings at an exceptional average of 51.12, featuring one century and six half-centuries from this position, offers hope for a settled future.

3 IN: ISHAN KISHAN; OUT: MS DHONI

Let’s face it. No one can quite fill the void left by MS Dhoni. But purely as a wicketkeeper batter Ishan Kishan has shown early potential and taken on the role admirably. Hailing from the same city as Dhoni, Ishan carries a hint of MSD’s flair in his batting, marked by a wide array of powerful strokes. When in full flow, Ishan’s batting evokes memories of Dhoni’s early years, and his wicketkeeping skills are certainly not subpar by Indian standards. Any lingering doubts about his ability to anchor the middle order were dispelled when Ishan delivered what could be considered the most challenging innings of his career, facing a formidable Pakistan bowling attack.

4 IN: SURYAKUMAR YADAV; OUT: DINESH KARTHIK

When India were in doldrums at 5/3 against New Zealand in the World Cup semifinal, it was a scenario that Dinesh Karthik had undoubtedly envisioned countless times. This was his opportunity to rise to the occasion and rescue India from the brink. Regrettably, Karthik’s innings unfolded in a rather laborious manner as he consumed 25 balls to accumulate just 4 runs. Throughout his 18-year-long career with the Indian team, Karthik showcased great promise but somehow fell short of reaching its full potential. He was experimented as a Test opener, an anchor in ODIs and a finisher in T20Is, but the only memory that most prominently lingers in our minds is the Nidahas Trophy final. Suryakumar Yadav, on the other hand, finds himself in a somewhat familiar situation. While he has firmly established himself as a T20 powerhouse, he faces challenges in adapting to the 50-over format. Nevertheless, the team management holds strong confidence that it’s only a matter of time before SKY takes flight in ODIs, which is the primary rationale behind his selection over Sanju Samson.

5 IN: MOHAMMED SIRAJ; OUT: BHUVNESHWAR KUMAR

Mohammed Siraj and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are poles apart as fast bowlers but what binds them together is their knack of picking wickets. Who can forget the sight of Bhuvneshwar’s banana swing sending stumps cartwheeling or making Aaron Finch his bunny? Unfortunately, Bhuvneshwar’s career has been marred by persistent injuries, which have thwarted what could have been one of India’s all-time great fast bowling careers. But while Bhuvneshwar has faded, the rise of Mohammed Siraj has been unprecedented. He quietly become the ideal third strike pacer for India in Tests behind Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah and then established himself in ODIs ending the year as India’s highest wicket taker in 24 scalps in 15 matches. When the World Cup comes knocking, Siraj promises to be a formidable threat with both new and old ball.

6 IN: SHARDUL THAKUR; OUT: KEDAR JADHAV

Kedar Jadhav’s fall was as rampant as his rise. But in the six years he played for India between 2014 and 2020, he left an indelible mark. Jadhav had a batting average of 42 with a strike rate of 101, and while he may have picked 27 wickets from 73 ODIs, his ability to break partnerships is what earned him backing from Kohli and MS Dhoni. Jadhav may still have it – RCB sure believed in him when they picked up as David Willey’s replacement in the IPL – but maybe just not enough to fight for a place in the already stuffed Indian team. The closest India can come to bank on now to fill a Jadhav-like role is Shardul Thakur. Like Kedar, Shardul too is a partnership breaker and his batting prowess is well-documented. Few No. 8 batters can lay claim to scoring twin fifties in a Test match against England, and outscore Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in the same inning. India’s hope will hinge on Shardul replicating his Test success in the ODIs, offering the team a valuable all-round option.

7 IN: AXAR PATEL; OUT: YUZVENDRA CHAHAL

With the Indian team management increasingly favouring utility players, the decision to opt for Axar Patel over Yuzvendra Chahal appears crystal clear. Axar’s added value with the bat sets him apart from Chahal in a manner that leaves no room for doubt. Chahal’s omission was a foreseen outcome, evident from his absence from the ODI squad since January of this year. Furthermore, the emergence of Kuldeep Yadav meant that there was space for just one wrist-spinner in the line-up. In contrast, Axar’s journey since his debut in 2014 has seen him feature in a modest 52 ODIs, largely due to the team’s preference for Ravindra Jadeja as the primary left-arm spinner. Nevertheless, the evolving requirements of the team, characterized by the need for greater batting depth, have pushed Axar into the spotlight although it’s worth noting that his inclusion may not be a given, considering the presence of Jadeja and Hardik Pandya as the first-choice all-rounders in the side.

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