Wicketkeeper batsman KL Rahul was included in India's squad for the 2023 ODI World Cup despite not having played any competitive cricket for more than three months.
Rahul, 31, tore a tendon in his right thigh during the IPL in May and underwent surgery. He was picked in the squad for the ongoing Asia Cup but missed the opening two matches with a niggle unrelated to his original injury.
Now that he has been selected, Rahul will be fighting for the wicketkeeper's spot with Ishan Kishan, who scored a superb 82 in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan and seems to be ahead in the pecking order.
Captain Rohit Sharma did not confirm if Rahul whether will go straight back into the team.
“We have said earlier that problems like these are good, that boys are fighting for spots,” Rohit said in Kandy.
“We will have to see who is in form and who is the opposition to face. All this will be calculated and the best XI will be picked.”
Rahul has passed the fitness test and is expected to join the Asia Cup contingent for the Super 4 stage of the tournament.
The rest of the squad pretty much selected itself, with debate over one or two spots. Sanju Samson was not picked despite averaging 55 in ODIs.
Also, there are two left-arm finger spinners in the squad – Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel – and no front-line off-spinner. Ravichandran Ashwin could have been a handful on Indian surfaces and would have also brought batting strength down the order.
The World Cup starts in India on October 5 and Sharma did not rule out the possibility of Rahul and Kishan playing together.
“As long as everyone's available and fit to play, the selection depends on the opposition we play, current form, players who have done well under pressure, those things do matter,” said the opener.
“For Ishan's confidence the last match he played was brilliant – under pressure, batting at number five for the first time, [being a] left-hander gives us another dimension.”
All-rounder Shardul Thakur was named in the squad, which means the team has five seam bowling options, and only three spin ones. Chances are, the team will sacrifice bowling in order to strengthen and deepen their batting.
India squad: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav.