Best case scenario:
First XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah.
Possible Squad Players: Ishan Kishan (reserve opener and keeper), Suryakumar Yadav (reserve middle-order batter), Yuzvendra Chahal (reserve spinner), Shardul Thakur (reserve pacer and lower-order batter), Sanju Samson (reserve middle-order batter and keeper), Axar Patel (reserve all-rounder), Umran Malik (reserve pacer).
Even in the best-case scenario, India’s squad and the ideal XI are far from perfect. They have their own pros and cons -
This is India’s strongest XI on paper, and each player is the best option for his respective role.
A couple of major ones that can come back to haunt the team at a crucial juncture.
1. There is no left-hander in the top-6
2. The tail is too long
3. There is a lack of good fielders among the substitutes
With that established, let us now look at the uncertainties that stare India in the face and all possible solutions to limit the damage.
Uncertainty 1: Shreyas Iyer remains unavailable
To counter this situation, India have four options -
Option 1: SKY replaces Iyer
This is the most popular like-for-like replacement. SKY is already a T20 legend and a beast against both pace and spin, an essential quality for a middle-order batter. However, he has had a mediocre start to his ODI career, with an average of 24.06 after 21 innings. This is down to 19.13 in nine innings in India. The series against West Indies will give him a chance to push his case.
Option 2: Samson replaces Iyer and takes gloves
If we go by plain numbers, Samson deserves a chance to be in the XI or in the squad ahead of SKY if the choice is between the two of them. Samson averages a handsome 66 after 10 ODI innings. And, in a testament to his adaptability, he has averaged 30+ at a strike rate of 90+ against all five opponents and the five countries he has played in. If not for injuries, he would have been the incumbent ahead of SKY in the Australia series before the IPL 2023.