The stage is all set for a marvellous battle between the top 10 cricket sides of the world, to play for the most sought after trophy, The World Cup. England being the host nation and the country that has historically been instrumental in projecting and popularising cricket, has that aura like nowhere else.
A World Cup final win on July 14, at the Mecca of cricket, "Lords", is what each team would be wishing for and would be remembered for years to come. The venue itself, with a well preserved museum and cricket artefacts brings forth a feeling of nostalgia among cricket lovers and followers of the game.
Each side is in the process of selecting their cricket warriors considering the skills and acumen required to not only beat their nine other rivals, but also to withstand the vagaries of the English weather. The climate change that the world is facing, has made it even more difficult to predict as to what one may encounter and therefore, selecting the right players could become a major factor for all the sides.
A tricky situation, as sides will need to ensure that they have the right arsenal of quick bowlers and spinners in their fold to be able to counter either a hot, humid or a wet and dreary English day.
The Indian cricket selectors, the wise-men of Indian cricket, are expected to announce the Indian team for the World Cup on Monday (April 15). The irony is that none of them have played International cricket in England or have been a part of a World Cup side.
Fortunately for them, they have the experience and knowledge of the Indian coach, Ravi Shastri and Captain Virat Kohli to support them. Both Ravi and Virat have been a part of a World Cup winning side in 1983 and in 2011, respectively.
Furthermore, India's tour to England last summer should have given the selectors a good insight into all the prospective players, as apart from the India side, the India A side was also touring England. One hopes that the think tank of selectors, have done enough preparation, as with nine matches at the league stage with each team playing against each other, every side will need a good bench strength of players, to support and replace, if the initial plans go awry.
The core of the Indian side, as highlighted by many newspaper reports after interviewing captain Kohli and the Chairman of the Selection Committee, seems to be quite straight forward. The statement that the IPL will have no bearing on the selection is to me a bizarre one.
An astute politician once told me and quite rightly so, he said: "The Indian public has a short memory span, 'at most times they forget in less than three days'". Therefore, the performance of players in the IPL, will definitely have a bearing whether the wise men of the Indian Selection Committee accept it or not. The public opinion and the present form of the players has always been the way teams have been selected in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
The captaincy of Virat Kohli, after the series of defeats leading his Bangalore side in the IPL has come for many a criticism. People feel that he is still to develop as a leader. He is extremely fortunate that he has the astute and proven Mahendra Singh Dhoni by his side to assist him and therefore, has managed to salvage a situation that could have been an embarrassment to him.
Rohit Sharma will, in most probability, be his deputy and the performance of India in the World Cup will have a large bearing on Kohli's future as an Indian captain in the limited overs game.
India has a set opening pair in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The just in time good IPL performance by K.L. Rahul has made him a front runner for the 3rd opening spot, in the event that Sharma or Dhawan need to be replaced. Although, Rahul does have the experience, I feel India needs to bring in a youngster.
Prithvi Shaw should be the player to consider, after all, a century on debut in Ranji, Duleep, Irani Trophy and in Test cricket is a tremendous feat. There is therefore, very little to debate as regards his class and the World Cup platform will do a world of good for his development.
The bowling unit is where India has established themselves. The two wrist spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav and the left arm finger spin of Ravindra Jadeja along with Kedar Jadhav's off breaks -- India should have an effective spin attack, on a hot and dry English day.
India's most destructive weapon is their pace attack. Jaspreet Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Md. Shami are 3 of the top bowlers in world cricket and with Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar to assist them, on a typical cold and cloudy English day, Virat Kohli will have enough options.
The second wicketkeeper as well as the number 4 batting spot is the only area of concern for selection. K.L. Rahul can be considered as a batsman and an optional wicketkeeper. My vote would go to Rishabh Pant, who is an extraordinary striker of the ball. His keeping will improve with experience, after all Dhoni was also not considered a great keeper during his early days.
There are many others such as Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Shubhman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal who are also in the fray. Unfortunately, only 15 players can be named for the World Cup. India has always been known to select one rank outsider into their squad.
Let's wait and watch!