On Monday, the Board of Cricket for Control In India (BCCI) announced the 15-member India squad for the upcoming Asia Cup tournament. The tournament is going to be a dress rehearsal for Rohit Sharma’s men just ahead of the ICC T20I World Cup, beginning in October. Even though India will be playing two more bilateral T20I series before the marquee event, they would aim to finalize their final XI by the end of the Asia Cup.
With Jasprit Bumrah ruled out for the injury, the Indian side will step into the tournament with only one of their primary fast bowlers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Harshal Patel is also nursing an injury and is expected to return to the side by the next month.
The comeback of Virat Kohli and KL Rahul is the biggest positive for India. These two, along with the skipper Rohit Sharma, will form the crux of the Indian top order. The trio hasn’t played together for quite some time now, but expect them to feature in all T20I games that India plays in the buildup to the World Cup.
As many as 12 names are already confirmed for the World Cup. On the batting front, the top three will feature KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli. Among them, Kohli’s abysmal form is a big concern for the team. The Indian selectors will have some tough decisions to make if there’s no improvement in Kohli’s form.
How viable it is to play a batter who has been woefully out of form in a knock-out tournament? But there’s a counterargument too: Does it make sense for India to leave their most successful batter in Australian conditions, especially when his replacement is likely to be someone who has never played there? Faced with the choice of going for reputation or current form, the Indian selectors have historically chosen the former.
Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, and Dinesh Karthik are three other batters who have already booked their tickets to Australia. The upcoming series will see both Pant and Suryakumar batting at different positions, as India is likely to use them as floaters if the situation demands.
On the bowling front, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Jasprit Bumrah are locked. Both Bumrah and Patel are likely to return back to action ahead of the World Cup. In the last few months, Hardik Pandya kept reminding us how valuable he is for the balance of this side. He and Ravindra Jadeja will be the first two names as an all-rounder on the team sheet.
This leaves us with ample players fighting for the remaining three slots. Among them, Arshdeep Singh has emerged as the biggest contender, thanks to his consistent performances in the Caribbean. Just six-match old in his international career, Arshdeep has shown immense composure in death overs – where you expect the newbies to go for some runs. He already looks like a complete package, and if there’s even a hint of susceptibility around Harshal’s fitness, Arshdeep comes across as the natural replacement in the playing XI.
On the spin front, it was supposed to be a two-way battle between Ravi Bishnoi and Kuldeep Singh for one slot. But now with no mention of Kuldeep in the Asia Cup squad, safe to assume that he has now fallen down the pecking order. But if the squad composition in the recent games is anything to go by, India is unlikely to pick two wrist-spinners going into the World Cup.
Even if Bishnoi makes a cut for Australia, he is unlikely to get a game unless Chahal gets injured. R Ashwin is another bowler who has entered the fray, but is likely to get a go unless the opponents are dominated by left-handed batters.
Deepak Hooda has seized every opportunity that came his way in 2022, the most notable being his blistering century against Ireland as an opener. Hooda is a versatile batter – can bat anywhere in the line-up – and can chip away with a few overs. Given how Jadeja’s form in the shorter formats has taken a hit, there’s a case for India to play Hooda ahead of him.
If the players haven’t found themselves in the list of the 15-member squad for the Asia Cup, they have already been ruled out of the T20I World Cup. Chief among them is Shreyas Iyer, who is added as travelling reserve.
Iyer has got enough chance to prove himself but has only one fifty – against West Indies in the 5th ODI – to show for. The short-pitched deliveries proved to be his nemesis, and a team can’t afford a player with such glaring weakness in the game.
Axar Patel has done not much wrong, but still, it’s hard to see him breaking into the side in the presence of another player – Jadeja – who offers a very similar skillset. Deepak Chahar has just returned back from injury, and he is in the traveling reserves for the Asia Cup but is unlikely to break into the side in the eleventh hour, especially when India has already found its pace combination.
Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan will also miss out on a flight to Down Under. India persisted with Kishan as an opener for quite a long, and he hasn’t really done enough to seal his spot. Moreover, he always looked rusty against the high pace.
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