The 2015 World Cup is almost one-and-a-half years away, but the selectors have reportedly already identified nine players who will form the core of the Indian team, which will defend the title won in 2011 on home soil. However, as the World Cup will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the selectors also want experienced players to be part of the 15-man squad.
A Times of India report said that based on current form, captain MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are likely to be the mainstay of the team for the 2015 World Cup unless injury forces any player out. The nine were part of the 2013 Champions Trophy squad in England; a tournament that India won without losing one of their five matches.
The remaining six slots in the squad will be filled on the basis of performance and fitness. This should give hope to the experienced quartet of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, who have fallen out of favor and aren't currently part of India's team in any format.
2011 World Cup: India's Road to Glory
"The selectors have an open mind on some senior players, but these players will have to prove their form and fitness. The selectors have decided to give some of the youngsters a longer rope till the World Cup," Times of India quotes a top BCCI official as saying.
One of the main reasons that the team think-tank and selectors have indicated that Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Zaheer can be part of India's 2015 World Cup squad, appears to be the consecutive defeats the team sans the injured Dhoni has suffered in the ongoing tri-series in West Indies also involving Sri Lanka.
"We have to score at least 300 runs in every match (in the 2015 World Cup). You can't expect the bowlers to do the job all the time. And with two new balls from both ends, it's going to be a real challenge. The current team has very talented youngsters, but we also need experience," a Board insider told Times of India.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are currently doing well as an opening combination, but the door is still open for Gambhir and/or Sehwag to force their way back into the team at the top of the order. The team management reportedly still think highly of Sehwag and Yuvraj.
Zaheer, who is battling injuries, can also harbour hopes of playing in the World Cup if he is fit and in-form, as his experience will be useful for India on Australia and New Zealand's pitches.
Zaheer's last ODI appearance was against Sri Lanka in August 2012, Sehwag hasn't played an ODI since 3 January 2013; while Yuvraj and Gambhir haven't been part of the 50-overs team since India's ODI against England at Dharamsala on 27 January 2013.
HOW THEY DID IN 2011 WORLD CUP
Gautam Gambhir: 393 runs with a highest score of 97 at an average of 43.66.
Virender Sehwag: 380 runs with a highest score of 175 at an average of 47.50.
Yuvraj Singh (Man of the Tournament): 362 runs with a highest score of 113 at an average of 90.50; 15 wickets at an average of 25.13 and economy rate of 5.02.
Zaheer Khan: 21 wickets at an average of 18.76 and economy rate of 4.83.