India are done with their home T20I season, a successful one despite a few slip-ups along the way. There are battling injury worries going into the five-match series against New Zealand, which gives them a chance to provide game time to some names who have been knocking at the door and test their bench strength. Not too many names are locked in for the men's T20I World Cup in Australia later this year, with almost half the spots in the 15-member squad very much up for grabs. This is the second part of ESPNcricinfo's series in the build-up to the World Cup, where our writers covering Indian cricket got together to categorise all the names in contention.
Almost all the names on this list have been guaranteed starters in the first XI, barring injuries or squad rotation. The new entrant on the list is Mohammed Shami, who was out of India's limited-overs setup not so long ago. Shami's yorkers and accuracy have been a revelation, and he should make it on the flight to Australia barring a late, drastic dip in form. Hardik Pandya's injury continues to keep him out of contention, but India haven't really found a backup or replacement for his position.
KL Rahul's batting alone made him one of the first names on India's T20I team sheet, but his wicketkeeping is starting to prove a revelation. If India were worried about Rishabh Pant's inconsistency and the middle-order muddle it led to, Rahul's glove-work has thrown up an unexpected insurance for the wicketkeeper-batsman's role. While Pant should continue to keep his place in the T20I XI for now, it offers a possibility of playing an extra batsman if his form doesn't improve in the coming months.
Shreyas Iyer comes closest to a lock-in for the 15-man World Cup squad, but he has struggled to string together a consistent run of scores during the home season. Barring a 33-ball 62 in the decider against Bangladesh, Iyer averaged 17 at a strike rate of 128. The upcoming series against New Zealand offers him a chance to firm up his position among the certainties for the World Cup.
Shardul Thakur is a new entrant to this category after his all-round effort against Sri Lanka, which included an 8-ball 22* in his first-ever T20I innings. With a lower order short on run-making ability, Thakur's runs might just get him into the squad, as long as he can ensure that he doesn't go for too many runs with the ball. A few months ago, you wouldn't have imagined seeing the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan in the same bracket, but that's what injury layoffs do to your place in a competitive field like the one India have.
The other demotion from this category to the "outside chance" list is MS Dhoni, who deserves to be in a category of his own given the uncertainty around his future. Dhoni found himself out of BCCI's central contracts list for the first time since his debut, and head coach Ravi Shastri has said his chances of playing the T20 World Cup could depend on how well he goes in the IPL. Dhoni has started training with his state side Jharkhand's Ranji Trophy squad in the new year.
We know R Ashwin hasn't played a limited-overs international since July 2017, but such is the importance of having a stellar IPL that you cannot rule a name like him out. Shastri has said there could be new contenders come the end of IPL 2020, names you don't quite consider to be in contention for an India spot at this point, which opens the door for any youngster really. But among those who have donned the national colours in recent times, the likes of Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik could yet have a final World Cup in them, as far-fetched as that sounds today.
And among those that haven't, Suryakumar Yadav's strong domestic form has been rewarded with a place on India A's squad to New Zealand. His big-hitting abilities in the middle order make him a potential contender for the finisher's role, and if he continues his run of form with the bat, selection might not be far away in the coming months.