All the 10 squads participating in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, which begins on 30 May, have announced their 15-member squads. While most selections were expected, there were a few surprises picks that raised eyebrows. Here’s a look at them.
Tom Blundell (New Zealand)
New Zealand became the first team to announce their squad, on 2 April, and it featured the unexpected inclusion of 28-year-old Tom Blundell, who is uncapped in ODIs, as the back-up wicket-keeper. Blundell has very limited international experience, having played two Tests and three Twenty20 internationals, the last of which came in February 2018. An injury to the regular second-choice gloveman Tim Siefert paved the way for Blundell. In 51 first-class games, Blundell has scored 2793 runs at an average of 37.74, while in 40 List A games; he has 762 runs at 23.81. In his last first-class game, he scored a half-century and a hundred for Wellington, albeit in a losing cause.
Vijay Shankar (India)
Vijay Shankar’s inclusion was a part of India’s ongoing search for a solution to the No.4 conundrum that has been troubling them for over a year. However, his addition meant that Ambati Rayudu had to miss out. During the West Indies ODI series in October last year, India captain Virat Kohli had backed Rayudu for the No.4 position after he had made a brilliant comeback. Shankar, however, pipped Rayudu to the spot despite having played only nine ODIs so far, since making his debut just earlier this year, and accumulated 165 runs. The selectors believe Shankar is a ‘three-dimensional’ player, who can contribute in all three departments of the game and, according to Kohli, can provide a “balance which other teams have had all these years”.
Mosaddek Hossain (Bangladesh)
The 23-year-old, who last played international cricket in the 2018 Asia Cup, returned to the side on the back of a noteworthy domestic season. Hossain was dropped from the international side after a string of sub-par performances. The middle-order batsman averages 31 after 24 ODIs, with 341 runs. He has scored only one fifty in the format. The selectors, however, felt that the youngster offers an all-around option and can bowl off-breaks in addition to his batting to cover for Mahmudullah, who has a right shoulder injury. Hossain’s brilliant run in the Dhaka Premier League, where he scored 488 runs at an average of 48.80, presumably played a part as well.
Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan)
Prolonged fitness issues have kept Hamid Hassan out of Afghanistan’s side since 2016. While the 31-year-old’s talent and experience have never been in question, it remains to be seen whether the lack of recent international exposure affects him. The selectors have also indicated that his inclusion is subject to full fitness, which remains under scrutiny. The athletic pacer boasts 56 wickets in 32 ODIs at an economy of 4.55. He did well in the previous edition, where he was Afghanistan’s second-highest wicket-taker. He was picked in the T20I squad for the series against Zimbabwe and UAE earlier this year but did not get a game.
Milinda Siriwardana (Sri Lanka)
Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad threw up plenty of surprises when it was announced on 18 April. The inclusion of several players, who have been out of ODIs for the last two to four years, was unexpected. Among them was middle-order batsman Milinda Siriwardana, who has not played a one-day cricket since 2017. In 26 matches, Siriwardana has scored 513 runs at a modest average of 23.31. While his numbers in domestic cricket recently haven’t been exceptional, they have been consistent. The selectors also said he has been specifically drafted in the side as “a No.6 batsman who can bowl as well.”
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