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Selection Conundrum: The Path Ahead for India in Asia Cup 2023 – Bold or Patient?

The Indian team for the Asia Cup 2023 slated to begin later this month will be announced today with the chairman of the selection committee Ajit Agarkar and captain Rohit Sharma addressing the media in Delhi, thus breaking the usual norm of the late-night press releases for squad announcement.

While it is a welcome move, the decision is not going to be an easy one for the selection committee as India are battling a host of uncertainties with the squad in a World Cup year. Asia Cup 2023 is an important tournament with the World Cup just two months away and ideally, India, hosts and strong favourites to win the quadrennial event, should have been eying the Asia Cup to fine-tune their World Cup squad; but Agarkar and Sharma are faced with the task to put up the first blueprint for the squad for the World Cup itself.

With injuries to India’s locked-in No.4 and 5 in ODIs – Sherays Iyer and KL Rahul – respectively and the unavailability of a certain Rishabh Pant, the task is cut out on whom to include in the squad (17-member provisional) for the continental event that will act as a precursor to the World Cup.

Should India Drop Sanju Samson or Suryakumar Yadav

In Iyer and Rahul’s absence India have tried Sanju Samson, and Suryakumar Yadav quite prominently in the above-mentioned positions, but with dwindling returns. While Yadav, the T20 megastar, has been a pale shadow of himself in ODIs, Samson too has squandered his opportunities to stake a claim in the ODI squad.

The focus though will be whether the selection committee pick Rahul, who as per recent reports, is reaching full fitness. The committee is awaiting reports from team physio Nitin Patel and NCA on Rahul’s progress, while it is believed Iyer’s, who went under the knife for a back injury, progress makes him highly unlikely to be picked for the Aisa Cup, thus putting his World Cup selection also in a balance.

That puts a big question mark on India’s No.4 slot – a position India have been grappling to find answers for a while now. While Yadav and Samson are the two backup players for the slot – the selection committee might be forced to rethink the strategy and go with some left-field choices.

Should India Let Ishan Kishan Open?

Ishan Kishan, after his mammoth 210 vs Bangladesh in an ODI earlier this year, responded with 3 consecutive fifties against West Indies when allowed to open and will be the backup player for Rahul, if the Karnataka player makes it to the squad. However, there is merit to include him in the middle order as well if Rahul fails to make the cut for Asia Cup, and subsequently, the tournament will act as a screening Test for the Jharkhand player for the World Cup squad.

It will be interesting to note whether Kishan will be allowed to open, or will be slotted in at No.4. Remember Kishan opened in the Caribbean only because Rohit had been rested. With Rohit coming in, Kishan could very well have to slot in the middle-order.

Or, as a left-field choice, Team India could slot Rohit at 4 or Shubman Gill at 3 or 4 to give Kishan his opening slot. There could also be a possibility of Virat Kohli dropping to 4. All this, if the selection committee does not think either Samson or Yadav merits the No.4 slot. Another name in contention is rookie Tilak Varma, who recently made his T20I debut against the West Indies.

Should India Consider Shardul Thakur as Extra All-round Option in the Playing XI

Hardik Pandya, who lead the ODI team in the West Indies for the last two ODIs, will relinquish his make-shift role to Rohit and Jasprit Bumrah is most likely to his Rohit’s deputy.

Pandya, the allrounder, then makes the case for No.5 or No.6 depending on if Rahul makes the cut or not. No.6 then could go to Yadav, as his explosive batting could still be an asset at that position in the ODIs, even though as the numbers suggest, Samson is a better bet even at No.6; but, perceptions here could prove to be the difference maker in who from either Samson or Yadav make the cut.

Samson could still very well be part of the Asia Cup squad as back for No.6 and the 2nd backup wicketkeeper behind Rahul ad Kishan. Then again, if Rahul is not picked for Asia Cup, Samson becomes the backup wicketkeeping option to Kishan.

Kuldeep Yadav India’s No.1 Spinner; Return of the Deadly Pace Trio

On to the bowlers, with Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna returning, the Asia Cup will act as the real proper test of fitness for Bumrah at least. Krishna, earmarked by Rahul Dravid way back in 2021 as India’s prospect in 50 overs format, will be in the scheme of things. Though with the retuning Mohammad Siraj and Mohammad Shami, it will be tough for Krishna to make the XI.

With his recent exploits in the West Indies, Kuldeep Yadav has reaffirmed his status as India’s No.1 spinner, but the question will arise of who will partner him. Ravindra Jadeja is a sureshot owing to his all-round skills and Axar Patel too has been in the mix, meaning Yuzvendra Chahal could very well miss out, if the selection committee opts for three spinners in the squad, to accommodate a backup for Pandya, the seam bowling allrounder, in Shardul Thakur.

Thakur makes a solid case for his inclusion with 58 wickets and a batting strike rate of 106 in 38 ODIs that he has played so far. The toss-up could very well be between an extra pacer in Krishna or an extra all-rounder in Thakur.

India’s probable Asia Cup Squad: 1. Rohit Sharma (C), 2. Shubman Gill, 3. Virat Kohli, 4. Hardik Pandya, 5. KL Rahul (wk), 6. Suryakumar Yadav, 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. Kuldeep Yadav, 9. Jasprit Bumrah, 10. Mohammad Siraj, 11. Mohammad Shami, 12. Ishan Kishan (wk), 13. Shardul Thakur, 14. Axar Patel, 15. Sanju Samson (wk), 16. Prasidh Krishna, 17. Tilak Varma

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