India coach Ravi Shastri revealed the team wanted to have a 16-member squad for the 2019 World Cup given the length of the tournament but had to make do with 15. That extra position ultimately resulted in contentious omissions of Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant.
Two days after India announced their 15-member squad for the World Cup, led by Virat Kohli, coach Shastri was in Dubai on Wednesday as Corporate Ambassador of Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone. While Shastri refused to make any comments about the merits of selection or the reasons behind the omissions of Pant and Rayudu from the final squad, he did say having 16 players would have been better.
“I don’t get involved in selection. If we have any opinion, we let the captain known,” Shastri said on Wednesday.
“When you only have 15 to pick, there is bound to be someone or the other who misses out, which is very unfortunate. I would have preferred 16 players. We had mentioned to the ICC that in a tournament that long, 16 players makes sense. But the diktat was 15.
“They (who missed out) shouldn’t lose heart. It’s a funny game. There could be injuries. So you never know when you could be called up.”
Shastri said England start as favourites as they are not only the No1 team but have fine all-round players while also enjoying the advantage of hosting the tournament.
“England have been the most consistent team over the last two years. They have multi-dimensional players. They have depth in bowling and batting. And they are playing at home. So they would start as favourites,” Shastri added.
“But there are so many teams that can beat any team on a given day. In a tournament like the World Cup, you have got to be on top of your game every game.”
Vijay Shankar was selected ahead of Rayudu as the main No4 batsman but coach Shastri said the team management will remain flexible on the batting order after openers Rohit Sharma Shikhar Dhawan and No3 Kohli.
“Total flexibility (on No4 position) depending on conditions, opposition. I would say the top three… but after that you can be very flexible,” he said.
There is a train of thought that India rely too heavily on Kohli to do the heavy lifting. But Shastri said India have been among the top two or three teams in all formats for the last five years and that can only be achieved through team work.
“If you look at the last five years, the way the Indian team has performed, they have always been in the top two or three. To be in top two or three for five years in a row, No1 in Tests, again top three in T20 cricket… you can’t depend on one player. You have that kind of consistent record, you need a bunch of players performing all the time. Due credit to the team.”
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