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ICC World Cup 2019: Weighing the pros and cons of

India playing part-time keepers for second choice

11.03.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

The countdown for World Cup 2019 has already begun. India is just 90 days away from playing their first World Cup match against South Africa on 5th June 2019. Like all other teams, India is on the lookout for players who could fill in the last one or two vacant spots. They have another 4 ODIs before the World Cup to do that. From the performances of the Indian players in the first ODI against Australia at Hyderabad which India won by 6 wickets, it is now clear that Ravindra Jadeja is not going down without a fight for his spot in the World Cup squad.

He bowled an economical spell conceding a mere 33 runs in his 10 overs. Jadeja will fight till the very end for his place in the World Cup squad as the second all-rounder after Hardik Pandya and the third spinner. Besides, Jadeja is a brilliant fielder and brings in plenty of value added to the squad.

The Hyderabad ODI has clearly shown that Vijay Shankar could, at most be, a batsman who could bowl 4 or 5 overs. Hence, if at all he is selected in the World Cup squad, it will be in place of a specialist batsman and not in place of the fifth seamer or the third all-rounder. That makes his chances that much more difficult.

Judging by the performances of Jadeja and the lack of it of Vijay Shankar in the first ODI, all the 11 players who played the first ODI at Hyderabad minus Vijay Shankar should take their place in the World Cup squad.

The spot vacated by Shankar would naturally be occupied by Hardik Pandya. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal are the other two certainties in the squad. That makes it 13.

1. Rohit Sharma 2. Shikhar Dhawan 3. Virat Kohli 4. Ambati Rayadu 5. MS Dhoni 6. Kedar Jadhav 7. Hardik Pandya 8. Ravindra Jadeja 9. Kuldeep Yadav 10. Mohammed Shami 11. Jasprit Bumrah 12. Yuzvendra Chahal 13. Bhuvneshwar Kumar

The 14th spot will have to be a reserve opener/middle-order batsman. After his impressive performances in the T20I against Australia, KL Rahul should grab that spot. Besides, both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have not been at their best in the last few matches and hence a back up in the form of KL Rahul becomes a necessity.

That leaves us with only one spot for the second wicket-keeper or the reserve seamer. If that spot is filled up with either Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant, that would weaken the bowling resources with India going in with only 5 specialist bowlers plus the two all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.

That brings us to the crazy thinking - why not India do away with the second specialist wicket-keeper and try to manage with part-time keepers like Ambati Rayadu and KL Rahul as second wicket-keeper in the squad. Though the idea sounds bizarre, in this article an attempt is made to weigh the pros and cons of such out-of-box thinking.

Factors favoring the exclusion of second specialist wicket-keeper

# The addition of a reserve seamer in place of the second keeper would strengthen the bowling resources and lend more balance to the team.

# Both KL Rahul and Ambati Rayadu have kept wickets in the IPL for their respective franchises. They have this year’s IPL before them before the World Cup to fine-tune their part-time skills.

# The track record of MS Dhoni shows that he is the fittest of all in this Indian team. Barring an unexpected injury, Dhoni should swim through the World Cup smoothly.

# If everything goes as per plan, the second specialist keeper could only be a passenger in the World Cup and the need to utilize his services might not arise.

# If DK or Pant are looked upon as a replacement for an out-of-form specialist batsman, then they should go past the reserve specialist batsman and the second all-rounder in the squad to make it to the playing XI. Though that is not impossible, it is highly improbable.

# The World Cup schedule for India is widely spread over and there is a healthy gap of a minimum of 3 days between matches. In case of any injury concern to Dhoni, there would be sufficient time to find a replacement in time for the next match.

# There is a precedent to this happening for India in the World Cup in the past. India reached the final of World Cup 2003 with part-time keeper Rahul Dravid playing the role of the main keeper right through the tournament.

# Since the World Cup 2011 was played at home, that Indian squad had only one wicket-keeper.

# In the World Cup 2015 played in Australia and New Zealand, India went in with only one keeper. So this is nothing new for Team India.

# The reserve fast bowler who would come in place of the reserve keeper should be an absolute necessity as a backup for the injury-prone Mohammed Shami.

Factors against the exclusion of the second keeper in the squad

# With due respect to MS Dhoni’s perfect fitness levels, he is no longer the youngster he once was and is prone to more injuries at this stage of his career.

# What will be the next option for India if Dhoni himself is scratchy with the bat in the World Cup?

# By a change in Law of Cricket since October 2017, now a substitute can replace an injured wicket-keeper in the middle of a match of course with the consent of the umpires. If that is the case, India would be missing out on an opportunity if they don’t have a second specialist wicket-keeper in the squad to do that.

# In case of any freak injury to Dhoni in the World Cup and in the absence of a second keeper, if India seeks a replacement, India could very well miss Dhoni’s services for the entire tournament. They can't afford to do that.

To sum up, the presence of a second wicket-keeper in the squad might be a superfluous option which would affect the balance of the team. India could as well take a chance with the ever fit Dhoni and do away with the second wicket-keeper spot for the World Cup.