India men’s team head coach Rahul Dravid has said the brains trust has narrowed down on “17-18” players for the ODI World Cup at home, to be played in October-November this year. “We are clear about the team we want to play (at the World Cup), and hopefully, we can give the guys we have zeroed in on as many opportunities as we can, at home and away,” Dravid said on the eve of India’s ODI series decider against Australia at the Chepauk Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
India has played 53 ODIs since the 2019 World Cup, and because of either injuries or workload management, the think tank has had to try out a plethora of players. But with the World Cup now just six months away, Dravid emphasised that the focus will be on giving those “in the mix” a long run.
“Some players are still recovering from injuries and will come back depending on the time frame of recovery. But within that pool, we want to have different combinations because it (World Cup) is a big tournament, we are in nine cities and nine different conditions during the league stage. So, whether we want four pacers or three spinners .. within the squad, we would like to look at different conditions and test different combinations so that we aren’t surprised by anything at the World Cup,” Dravid said.
India is playing only 42 ODIs in the new FTP (2023-2027) - the second-fewest among the 12 Full Members and has a limited number of ODIs to flesh out its World Cup plan, with the Indian Premier League (March-May) and World Test Championship final (June) set to keep the core of the imminent World Cup squad busy.
Dravid weighed in on the issue. “We are guided by the schedule. It’s hectic as it is, and it’s hard to add games to it. Right after the IPL, around that time, it’s our monsoon season, our off-season, so we won’t get too many ODIs in our conditions, but we are clear about the squad,” he said.
Dravid also dismissed concerns about the Indian batting, which has now looked wobbly in two back-to-back ODIs. “I think the Mumbai pitch was challenging, but the last one wasn’t a 117 wicket. That said, we’ve done well as a batting unit the last year or so, especially in white-ball cricket. We have put up some big scores in ODIs as well. Occasionally, these things (collapses) can happen. Mitchell Starc has bowled well, so credit to him. We need to find a way to get through that first spell of play and not lose too many wickets up front.”
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