India is definitely one of the teams to beat in the ICC World Cup of 2019. The esteemed event will be hosted by England and Wales from May 30 to July 14 of next year, for the fifth time. MSK Prasad, the chief of selectors announced before the ODI series in South Africa that a final bunch of players will be shortlisted during the tour of England sometime this July – September. Hopefully, by then the selectors will have an idea of whom to put in the team. India plays five One Day International cricket matches against New Zealanders, in New Zealand, five ODIs against Australia, in India and finally, three ODIs against the Zimbabweans, before the team flies to England, for the World Cup, in May 2019. It’s going to be a busy time for the players with the number of matches in the plate. Therefore, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and a few others shall have to step up to be in their ultimate form at the World Cup.

Kohli has been vital to most of India’s ODI wins in recent times. More often than not, scoring big, making India win easily. Hence, he is expected to be at his peak in England in 2019. Unless there’s a change, Dhawan and Rohit Sharma will open the innings in World Cup matches. K.L. Rahul, the third opener, after working on his form should make a comeback by the time the squad is chosen. With Kohli at number three, the four and five slots in batting remain open. This could be a weak link in an otherwise strong lineup. Right now, there seem to be four nominees for these slots – Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer. They have all been in and out of the team and therefore, the choosers will have to find reliable players who are in form to fill up these spaces.

At number six we should have MS Dhoni, followed by the go-getting all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Despite uncertainties voiced by some people, Dhoni seems to be not only as one of the best wicket-keeper in the world but also as somebody who has loads of experience at the international level. Though his proficiency as a ‘finisher’ may have ebbed with age, he is still India’s best bet in the lower middle order.

Pandya has flattered to deceive too often. Labeled the next Kapil Dev by some people, perhaps too hastily, it would seem that he has a long way to go in living up to that title. Recently, Kapil Dev voiced his disappointment at Pandya’s attitude and the silly mistakes that he makes from time to time. Pandya will, therefore, have to change his approach and buck up if he wants the slot in the team. But it would seem that both Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja could give Pandya a run for his money. Both of them are capable of hitting big, are also thrifty with runs while bowling, and are excellent fielders as well. The last four places should be covered by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah.

Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Manjot Kalra and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, from India Under 19 squad, might be given a break in international matches. Washington Sundar, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant and quite a few others seem to show promise to be considered in the team.

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