The bustling form of several Indian pace bowlers in the ongoing IPL looks to be the only major discussion point on Saturday in the corridors of the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, when India's squad for the ICC Champions Trophy is announced. This summer's tournament will be held in England where seam and swing bowling will find favour and that India's selectors have several names to ponder over can only be a good sign.
From India's last ODI squad, the men to drop out are most likely going to be Ashok Dinda and Shami Ahmed for two new pace-bowling faces. India have not played 50-over cricket since January, which leaves the selectors to pick the 15-man squad largely on reputation and IPL form. Thus, the persons of interest would be Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan. With Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar certainties having performed creditably in India's last two ODI series and currently enjoying good form in the IPL, two of the four are likely to be picked.
The favorites look to be Umesh and Vinay. Umesh - who has not played an ODI since July 2012 - made a return to competitive cricket at the end of the domestic season and in the IPL has bowled hard and fast to take 13 wickets from ten games so far. The most athletic and quickest of India's crop of pace bowlers, Umesh would be a major asset in England. Vinay currently is the leading Indian bowler in IPL 6 - second to Dwayne Bravo's 19 - with 18 wickets from 11 matches. His ability to create opportunities and strike at the death for Royal Challengers Bangalore has lifted his chances of adding to his 22 ODI caps.
Both Praveen and Irfan should also start some debate at Saturday's meeting. Praveen has ten wickets in ten matches for Kings XI Punjab and considering his success in England during the 2011 tour, his ability to swing the ball sharply in seam-friendly conditions merits discussion. Irfan, after a slow start to the IPL season, has shown some promise but he looks to be at the back of line.
The other quicks in India's pool for the Champions Trophy are Shami Ahmed, Ashok Dinda, Ishwar Pandey and Sidharth Kaul but they do not look like being on the flight to England.
The other area of debate is who will open the innings in England. With Virender Sehwag out of the reckoning after being dumped in January, there is a chance for Delhi opener Shikhar Dhawan to earn a recall to the ODI team. Dhawan marked his Test debut with a superb innings against Australia and since returning from injury he has scored two half-centuries for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Ajinkya Rahane opened alongside Gautam Gambhir in India's previous ODI assignment against England, and is certain to keep his place with Dhawan being the third opener. Murali Vijay and Unmukt Chand are the other openers in the 30-man pool but having done nothing of note in the IPL they stand almost no chance of being selected. Rohit Sharma should keep his place as a middle-order batsman, unless the selectors opt to include Dinesh Karthik as back-up wicketkeeper.
The three spinners are likely to be R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra. Ashwin has been India's first-choice pick for some time and Jadeja was excellent against England, taking nine wickets at 15.77 with an economy rate of 3.49. Mishra looks primed for a recall after taking 16 wickets for Hyderabad this IPL season. The 30-year-old legspinner was named in India's ODI squad to face Pakistan late 2012 but did not get a game.
With India due to tour the West Indies for a tri-series just days after the Champions Trophy ends, success in England will most certainly guarantee selection for the Caribbean trip.
Possible squad: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar
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