Pick Shankar ahead of Rayudu: Manjrekar

Sanjay Manjrekar

Former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar admits India do not have a perfect side for the World Cup but insists they remain the top side going into the quadrennial event in England.

Manjrekar predicted the middle order to be India's “soft underbelly” and picked Vijay Shankar ahead of Ambati Rayudu for the No 4 slot.

“I must confess I had Ambati Rayudu as India's No 4. But at this stage my heart has changed after seeing Vijay Shankar and the way Rayudu got out on a few occasions,” Manjrekar told DH.

“If World Cup was being played in Asian conditions, then Rayudu would have been ok. But because it is being played in England you need a little bit of class in your batting. This guy (Shankar) has got an average of 47 in first-class cricket. So I wouldn't mind going with Vijay Shankar as your No 5 or 4.”

Manjrekar pointed out while India's top three spots are sorted, it is the slots 4, 5, and 6 which would pose a headache for them. “I believe whoever is picked, be it Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar or KL Rahul, the middle-order for India in this World Cup will be its soft underbelly compared to how secure the top three is and how brilliant the bowling is.

“Even if there is some change in the top, Rahul is perfectly capable of fitting in as an opener. As for MS Dhoni, give him the flexibility to bat. His form is very crucial for India.

“The thing is there is no batsman in the league of Yuvraj Singh or Suresh Raina or Gautam Gambhir, who used to bat No 3. So that is why perhaps India is making compromises. Not a perfect team India has got, but so be it.”

Manjrekar felt the two wrist spinners -- Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav -- would play a crucial role in England. Ravindra Jadeja, he felt, would get a look in too as the third spinner. He also advocated the inclusion of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav in the squad.

“Ideally India should be playing their 5 quality bowlers. They have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Md Shami and then you got Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The two wrist spinners will be very effective in the middle stages. If they are worried about their batting then what do you do? Most of the teams don't play spin well. Might as well make a compromise on seam, not spin. So play Chahal and Kuldeep and then you get rid of one of the seamers and let Hardik come in. Then you have a bit of more body in batting. So that is the change I see. So either you sacrifice Bhuvi or Shami to get Pandya in.

“These days you are getting some dry pitches, so Jadeja can sneak in as your safe spinning option.

“As for Kedar, his inclusion depends on India's bowling combination. At the moment his off-spin has become really crucial. If India plays Hardik as a third seamer, they will need Kedar because Hardik Pandya is not your guaranteed 10-over bowler. So I see Kedar playing because he can bowl your 4-5 overs if possible.”

Manjrekar said India are front-runners in the World Cup: “India has a better bowling side than 2011. You have got one all-time great batsman (Virat Kohli) and two prolific batsmen at the top and a great bowling side, so that should be enough for India to be the No 1 team in the tournament.”

DH News Service

Manjrekar's squad for WC: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, K L Rahul, Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja.

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Pick Shankar ahead of Rayudu: Manjrekar

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