Team for Champions Trophy: Extra batsman or third spinner?

The squad is not likely to see much of a deviation from the one that played against England in January barring Rohit Sharma who is almost certain to replace KL Rahul who is out with a shoulder injury. Every batsman from the last ODI team has had a decent IPL so far even though none has been close to taking it by storm.

That gives Ajinkya Rahane some hope of making a comeback despite his none-too-impressive recent form. Historically, playing in England in early summer demands good technique against swing and seam albeit the pitches for white-ball cricket have been pretty flat of late. This scenario may favour Rahane.

If there is any question mark over offie R Ashwin's fitness, then left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav could get a look in as back-up spinner. "The question is whether the selectors back the seven batsmen formula (not including the all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja, Ashwin and Hardik Pandya) or they want an extra attacking spinner in Kuldeep. Virat Kohli (captain) has always wanted to attack with the ball," a source close to the selectors told TOI on Sunday.

"If they want more cushion in batting then Manish Pandey and Rahane can be the reserve batsmen. That's the only way Rahane can get in," former selector Saba Karim reckoned.

The surprise in the selection, sources reckon, could come in the form of wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant but only if the selectors opt for an extra bat.

Whenever the selectors have sprung a surprise in the last couple of years, it has favoured the old guards in Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj and Nehra have answered the call with good performances. However, Nehra's hamstring injury which he suffered on Saturday during an IPL game may have come at a bad time as the team management, according to sources, was keen on having the veteran pacer in the squad.

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