The ODI squad for India’s ongoing tour of Sri Lanka is yet to be announced. With an inexperienced side set against them, India might test their bench strength with players who have been an asset to Team India in the past or even those who have done well in the domestic circuit and have been constantly knocking the door for an ODI call-up. Though Team India had a balanced squad during their tour of West Indies, the players ought to have a little rest ahead of the India vs Australia ODI series. On a positive note, the experimentation can bring more options to the table in ICC World Cup 2019.
Let’s take a look at the players who might make a comeback in India’s ODI squad (though, we are hoping against hope).
The craze for India’s left-handed opener is so great that fans have been coming to the stadium with posters of ‘Bring back Gambhir’. Gambhir is currently out of the Indian squad and has not played an ODI since January 2013. Though he made a comeback in the Test format but was ruled out due to an unfortunate injury.
Gambhir has led the Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) side to two Indian Premier League (IPL) titles, having performed consistently in the 2017 edition. When he was not selected for ICC Champions Trophy 2017 squad, there was a lot of outrage on Twitter as his fans had earlier suspected wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik’s selection over him. The 35-year-old deserves a better than mere waiting for being selected. This might be the perfect opportunity to serve him a good send-off from ODI cricket.
The most underrated ODI batsman in the list, Ambati Rayudu made his way into the Indian squad after a consistent performance in domestic circuit and IPL. He used to be a regular in the Mumbai Indians (MI) squad and was one of the most dependable middle order batsmen. Only a few know that Rayudu’s average in ODIs is above 50 after playing 34 matches.
Rayudu, unfortunately, gets a place in the squad only when players are either on rest or the tour is not a significant one, like the tour of Zimbabwe. Rayudu has scored 313 runs in the previous 5 innings he has played. Though the opponents were Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, his consistency calls for a chance to play in the big league.
Robin Uthappa had become a sensation when he had started playing for India. He was known for being innovative at the crease, but after a while, his name faded from international cricket. But Uthappa did not give up. He worked on himself with a personal coach and has played consistently in IPL, featuring among the top scorers of the tournament. His consistency strengthens his case for a berth on the Indian side.
Suresh Raina used to be a regular in the Indian squad before a bad series against South Africa resulted in his exit from the squad. Raina too has played well in the IPL by leading the Gujarat Lions and has been able to counter his inability to tackle the short ball. Raina was one of the players in the backup squad for ICC Champions Trophy 2017. He will be going through a fitness Test and is likely to make a comeback against Sri Lanka.
A few readers may not agree with Cheteshwar Pujara playing in ODIs, arguing that his record in ODIs has been below par. The counter argument is that Pujara has not got enough chances in ODIs to show his ability to anchor the innings all the way through.
If Rohit Sharma can be awarded a berth in India’s Test squad for his performance in ODIs, why can’t Pujara get a berth in the ODI squad after looking at his splendid performance in the Tests? It took former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid 10 innings to register his 10th 50-plus score. Pujara is a promising talent (with an average over 50) and might need some warm up to get into the groove but that’s how the ‘dark horse’ has had cruised in his career. All he needs is a nudge to get him going.