Asia Cup 2023: India’s Asia Cup 2023 squad received a significant boost with the return of key players, setting the stage for the upcoming tournament.
Scheduled to start on August 30, the Asia Cup will serve as vital preparation for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023. India is slated to participate in the six-nation contest, jointly hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Notably, this tournament represents one of India’s final international engagements before the Cricket World Cup in October-November.
This resurgence offers India the opportunity to experiment with potential combinations, which could also be utilized during the World Cup.
Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul’s comeback
Several key takeaways emerge from the squad announcement made on August 21. A prominent aspect is the return of Iyer and Rahul.
However Bumrah had already made his comeback during the T20I series against Ireland, Iyer and Rahul have been included again in the Asia Cup squad.
Both players had been sidelined due to injuries. Iyer’s absence from cricketing action stemmed from back troubles since March, while Rahul’s thigh injury during the Indian Premier League in May led to his extended absence.
Following successful surgeries, the duo underwent rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and recently participated in match simulation training.
As of now, Iyer has regained full fitness and is confirmed to participate in the event. Conversely, Rahul, the cricketer from Karnataka, encountered a new and unrelated minor injury.
Consequently, his return to the Indian setup will be gradual. Ajit Agarkar, Chairperson of the Senior Men’s Selection Committee, confirmed during a press conference following the squad announcement that Iyer’s fitness is at 100%, while Rahul’s recent niggle is not related to his previous injury.
This explains Sanju Samson’s inclusion in the traveling party. Agarkar expressed optimism that Rahul would regain fitness, likely by the second or third game of the Asia Cup.
Another significant development revolves around India’s decision concerning the fourth pacer conundrum, which was raised by wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.
Given the forthcoming World Cup’s venue in India, the squad is expected to feature no more than four fast bowlers alongside Hardik Pandya.
India’s middle-order preferences
The squad also reveals India’s middle-order preferences. In addition to the return of established ODI players, Rahul and Iyer, the team has included emerging talents such as Tilak Varma and T20I standout Suryakumar Yadav.
India has struggled with a consistent middle-order lineup recently, notably lacking clarity in the crucial number four position. This challenge was evident during the recent ODI series against the West Indies, where three different batters were tested in that position across multiple games.
Captain Rohit Sharma stressed the importance of collective batting performance, highlighting the upcoming matches as an opportunity for the batsmen to assert their roles for the global event.
“It’s not about number four. It’s about top three and then four, five, six, seven to get the job done. It’s not just one position that can win us the game or the tournament,” Rohit said. “It’s about the entire batting unit getting the job done.”
“We’ve got six and three, nine ODIs, plus the two practice games before we play our first game (in the World Cup). So we’ve got a lot of games, where these guys can bat and make this position their own.”
No place for Yuzvendra Chahal
Interestingly, Yuzvendra Chahal, who was part of the squad that toured the West Indies and last participated in an ODI in January, was omitted from the team.
India opted for a spin-bowling trio comprising Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, and Kuldeep Yadav. Ajit Agarkar discussed the challenge of accommodating two wrist-spinners in the squad, shedding light on the rationale behind Chahal’s exclusion.
"Kuldeep's had a fantastic run at this point. To fit in two wrist-spinners, might have been difficult. At this point you can only fit 15 (for the World Cup). To fit two wrist-spinners (would've been difficult). So unfortunately one of them would've to miss out and at this point, Kuldeep is a little bit ahead of him."
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