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India faced with Dhoni v Karthik debate

ESPNcricinfo logo ESPNcricinfo 11-01-2019 Nagraj Gollapudi

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India have made it clear that their focus during the remaining 13 ODIs before the World Cup would be to firm up combinations. They are virtually certain about about their squad they'll be taking to England in May but there are still some unanswered questions

Who are the back-ups for Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar?

Fitness and form permitting, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be the frontline fast bowlers in the Indian XI at the World Cup. Ideally, they would also want a third seamer. Hardik Pandya held that job until he fractured his back in the Asia Cup in September and the team management is likely to be careful about overworking him.

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With India set to include four fast bowlers in the 15-man World Cup squad, Mohammed Shami and Khaleel Ahmed are currently first in line as back-ups to Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar.

Khaleel made an immediate impression with his ability to swing the ball during his debut, but he has largely only bowled in the subcontinent so far. And in the three matches that he did played outside of Asia - the T20Is in Australia - he couldn't get sideways movement and his speeds kept dropping to the low to mid 130kph. He'll want to rectify that.

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Shami, meanwhile, has the experience, the high speeds, and, more importantly, good form since the England tour last year. Additionally - even though the white ball barely swings - he has the knack of producing reverse which can come in handy during the middle overs.

In case any of the frontline quicks are sidelined, the inclusion of Mohammed Siraj for the Australia and New Zealand series suggests he will be the back-up for the back-ups. Siraj can swing the ball both ways at high speeds, which has probably helped him leapfrog Umesh Yadav in the pecking order.

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Should India play both wristspinners and both allrounders?

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are match-winners for Virat Kohli, so expect them to feature in the XI consistently. However, playing both of them means India's tail gets stretched. This could be sorted if they play both their allrounders - Pandya and Kedar Jadhav - with Bhuvneshwar coming in at No. 8.

However, with Joe Root's men unravelling the mystery of Kuldeep in England last year, India might be tempted to field just one wristspinner and bring in a finger-spinner as support. Ravindra Jadeja, who is part of the squads for the limited-overs legs of the Australia and New Zealand series, is the best fielder in the squad and can be a handful on slow pitches. He also provides India the option of batting till No. 8. This, though, would mean the selectors having to drop KL Rahul (the third opening option) or carry just three fast bowlers.

How to fit in Dinesh Karthik?

He might be the second wicketkeeper in the squad, but Dinesh Karthik is also a back-up for Ambati Rayudu at No. 4. Virat Kohli is convinced Rayudu provides the right balance in the middle order and has the temperament to boot. But Karthik has the power-hitting ability to change the nature of a game - and very quickly at that. If he can quiet his mind, he has the ability to marshall the lower order in the event of an early collapse and light up the final 15 overs of the innings with fireworks in the company of the other allrounders. Besides, India have to give Karthik some game time so that he is ready to replace MS Dhoni, should the need arise.

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