India’s preparations for next year’s World Cup have begun in earnest with their head coach Ravi Shastri saying there will no further “chopping and changing” to the squad. India have 13 matches remaining across three ODI events before the World Cup, which will begin on May 30 in England.India play no further ODIs for the rest of this year, but they end 2018 joint third among the teams that have featured the most players. India fielded 25 players in 20 ODIs, which put them behind only Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.The resting of key all-format players such as captain Virat Kohli, injuries to allrounders Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav, managing the workload of fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the search for batsmen to occupy middle-order slots, have all contributed to India testing a wide pool of players.In the 13 ODIs leading up to the World Cup, however, Shastri said India would stick with a smaller group.
“We will try and play close to a 15 that will go to the World Cup,” Shastri said before India’s departure for Australia. “Chopping, changing over now. Rest period over. Now is the time to really get focused, play as a unit. And hopefully not have too many injuries where we have to look elsewhere.
“There are not too many games now: we have got eight good games in Australia and New Zealand and then five against Australia here. So 13 games. So we will try and play the best team at all times.”India’s biggest concern has been finding middle-order batsmen to relieve the run-scoring burden on the top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli.
After the ODI series in England, which India lost 2-1, there were a couple of pressing concerns: the absence of a settled No. 4 and the inconsistent form of MS Dhoni, who was recently dropped from the T20 squad.
Ambati Rayudu’s strong form in the Asia Cup and the five-ODI series against West Indies at home gave Kohli the confidence to say the Hyderabad batsman would be the No. 4 going forward. Kohli said Rayudu had both the balanced approach and the intellect to deal with different match situations.
India will now aim for Pandya, who is recovering from a back injury picked up during the Asia Cup, and Jadhav to stay fit when they play the three-ODI series in Australia in January followed by a five-ODI series in New Zealand before returning home for another five-ODI series against Australia.