Moving on from their perfectly-timed Asia Cup title haul in Colombo on Sunday, beating Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in the final, India now look ahead ot their last and final preparation for the ODI World Cup at home as they take on five-time champions Australia in a three-match series starting September 22. And while most would have expected India to remain unchanged barring that one injury concern pertaining to Axar Patel, the selection committee made as many as four changes.
Speaking to the media virtually on the day after India’s Asia Cup win, BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar read out the squad for the three-match home series against Pat Cummins’ men. India picked a 15-member squad for the first two matches and 17 for the final tie.
While the selectors added only two extra members to their 15-member World Cup squad for the final tie, in Baroda on September 27, India dropped four regular members for the first two matches. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav – were all missing from the squad for the first two games.
Responding to a question from the press, Agarkar revealed: “Few of the players have been given a breather. Rohit has taken a break.”
“Luckily we got a fair amount of cricket at the Asia Cup,” Agarkar added. “If not, we would’ve looked at it some other way. More than physical, sometimes guys need a mental break, which isn’t a bad thing leading into a tournament like the World Cup.
“For the third game, everyone will be available. We will play our World Cup squad. This (squad for the first two ODIs) gives us a chance to give guys sitting outside a chance. It’s still a strong squad. Like I said, if we hadn’t got a lot of cricket at the Asia Cup, who knows, we may have thought differently.”
Rohit and Kohli had both been rested for the West Indies ODI series and had only returned to the set-up in the Asia Cup. In a bid to test India’s bench strength, both had relinquished their original batting spot in the first ODI match against West Indies before being rested for the second and third game. They had later missed the T20I contest and the tour of Ireland as well.
Hardik had played all the ODI matches against West Indies and had in fact lead India in Rohit’s stead in the last two games. Kuldeep too was part of the contest while both were rested for the Ireland tour.
KL Rahul will be leading the Indian side in the first two matches against Australia while Ravindra Jadeja will be his deputy. Ruturaj Gaikwad, who will be leading the Indian squad in the Asian Games later this month, has been picked for the first two games along with Tilak Varma.