Never one to shy away from expressing his opinions, former Indian captain and batting legend Virender Sehwag has named his 15-man Indian squad for the World Cup. Retaining seven players from the 2015 team that reached the semis in Australia that year, he has included eight new names.
Not surprisingly, the top-3 remains identical. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli will lead the batting charge in Viru's team. He has also chosen to keep Mahendra Singh Dhoni at no 4 in the line-up.
But there are some big changes in the middle-order as far as Sehwag is concerned, though not surprising. Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu – part of the 2015 squad – have been sent packing. In their place come Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant.
Among all-rounders, Stuart Binny, again expectedly, doesn't retain his place and is replaced by Hardik Pandya. Vijay Shankar also finds a place in this team. In the spin bowling department, the trio of Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel that Indian possessed four years earlier has been modified by the first Test triple centurion of India. While Jadeja retains his place, Ashwin and Patel make way for the now-famous wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
India's four pacers in the 2015 squad were Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav. In Viru's team, Kumar and Shami retain their places and are joined by Jasprit Bumrah. Sharma and Yadav are not part of the plans. Obviously, Sehwag sees one of Pandya and Shankar doing the fourth seamer's job.
What's noticeable about this team?
Like the Indian team that's going to be picked on Monday, Viru's team only has a few surprises. Five members of the batting order are certain to be in the actual team also. The interesting choice by the former opener is the inclusion of both Vijay Shankar and Rishabh Pant.
He has decided to trust the talent of Pant more than the experience of Dinesh Karthik. Viru also feels Vijay Shankar can be a more reliable batsman than other middle-order contenders. His decision to bring back KL Rahul may have been influenced by the latter's return to form in IPL.
The decision to not select a frontline fourth seamer but instead opt for an extra all-rounder shows how much faith the former dashing opener has in Hardik Pandya's ability. It's unlikely he sees Shankar as a frontline seamer. How much do Sehwag's views coincide with those of the selection committee, we will only find out on April 15.