Head coach Rahul Dravid has said India have narrowed down on 17-18 players that will be part of their squad for the ODI World Cup at home, to be played in October-November this year.
In the first three months of 2023, India have played nine ODI matches besides six T20Is and four Tests. But the focus was always on the ODIs.
The ongoing series against Australia will be India's last engagement at home over the next few months. The side will not get many other opportunities to play home ODIs except three more matches at home against Australia in September before the World Cup.
The current ODI series against Australia is tied at 1-1, with the final ODI set to be played in Chennai on Wednesday. India won the first game in Mumbai by five wickets before suffering a humiliating 10-wicket loss in the second ODI in Vizag.
"We've narrowed it down to 17-18 players, we have a few guys who are recovering from injuries and might come into the mix, depending on the time frame of their recoveries and how long it takes for them to come back," Dravid said in a press conference on the eve of the third ODI against Australia.
"All in all, I think we are pretty much in a good space. We're pretty clear about the kind of team we want to play in. And, hopefully, we can give these guys who we've zeroed in on, as many playing opportunities as we can. If it's in India, it's great, but even if it's not in India, we just want to give as many opportunities as we can to build our side."
"Within our team of 16 players, there will be a couple of different combinations to try and see, because it's a big tournament, it's a long tournament in India. We're playing in nine different cities, nine different conditions, so you just want to have flexibility in your squad as well, to be able to play sometimes four fast bowlers, sometimes play three spinners. Within the squad, we'd want to look at different options. So as to ensure that we've covered all bases for all conditions."
"To a large extent, I think we have got a lot more clarity at the end of these nine games, irrespective of whatever happens tomorrow. I think we will just keep building on that clarity. We are quite clear about the kind of squad we want.
"For us now, it's really just about the different playing XI combinations and just ensuring that we play different combinations at times just to ensure that we are able to do that in the World Cup and we are not surprised by anything in the World Cup.
Dravid also discussed how the team was looking to keep in shape for the global event in October-November 2023 with the ICC World Test Championship final, Asia Cup and other matches ahead of it.
"We are guided a little bit by the schedule. After IPL we've obviously got the world Test Championship final, there's a tour of the West Indies and then there's an Asia Cup and then there are a few ODI before the World Cup. So that's about what we get. I think with the kind of schedules we have it's pretty hectic already. It's hard to add games to it especially that time of the year," said Dravid.
"In India, it will be obviously the monsoon season, it's really our off-season. Probably, we'll not get many more games in our conditions. But we've had the opportunity over the last few months to play in these conditions, which is great. I think to a large extent we are pretty clear as to the squad, and the players we want," he added.
The head coach also backed India's top-order, who looked flimsy in the first two ODI against Australia and said: "I think the Mumbai pitch was challenging, but the last one wasn't a 117 wicket. I think we've actually done really well as a batting unit over the last year or so, especially in white-ball cricket, even in the six-seven games before that, we put up some really big scores in one-day cricket."
"So not too much of a concern, I think at odd times, these things can happen. I think Mitchell Starc has bowled really well, so credit to him as well for the way he's bowled with the new ball.
"We just need to find a way through that spell and bat, don't lose too many wickets upfront. I think we should be fine," Dravid said.
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