Off-spinner R Ashwin, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and Delhi lad Shikhar Dhawan, the left-handed opener, may all have to bid their World Cup hopes goodbye, as India named a 17-member squad for the Asia Cup 2023 that will be hosted by Pakistan from August 30 to September 17. India’s matches will be held in Sri Lanka.
Upcoming batsman Tilak Varma, and players returning from injury – Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Prasidh Krishna – got a boost to their hopes after they were included in the squad.
Newly-appointed chief selector Ajit Agarkar said that the squad for the Asia Cup, which also includes wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson as reserve player, will be used to decide the 15-member squad for the 50-over World Cup to be held in India in October-November. The squad for the World Cup will be announced on September 5.
“There will be a couple of games [of Asia Cup], before we announce the World Cup squad. But it will be around these guys only. It is quite obvious,” said Agarkar, addressing the media at Taj Palace Hotel in the Capital.
The squad includes Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul, who both have passed the fitness test although there is some concern regarding the latter and he may miss the first couple of games of the Asia Cup.
“Both had long-term serious injuries. I think Shreyas has been declared completely fit. Rahul, over the last few days, [has suffered a niggle]. It is not his original injury. He has a niggle. That is why Sanju is travelling at the moment. We are all expecting him to be fit if not at the start of the Asia Cup, then maybe by the second or the third game. He is well on track. They are two important players. The fact that the World Cup squad will be announced on September 5 gives us more time,” said Agarkar, who is the first India selector to address the media in 20 months.
Asked about Dhawan’s exclusion, Agarkar said that the squad already has enough options for openers.
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 21, 2023
“At the moment we have just spoken about three openers. Rohit [Sharma] is not a bad player. Shubman [Gill] has had a phenomenal two years. Ishan Kishan has done well as opener. Shikhar has been a terrific player for India. We know his record. We know what he has done. [But] I think since December (ODI vs Bangladesh], he has not played anything. At the moment, there are three guys doing really well as opener. These guys have been prolific for India. These are our preferred openers.”
India will also travel without a leg-spinner or an off-spinner. The squad is pace bowler-heavy. There are four pacers and two pace bowling all-rounders in Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur.
There are two left-arm spinners in Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja and a left-arm wrist-spinner, Kuldeep Yadav.
Agarkar said, “Dew was a factor in deciding the bowling combination.”
Sharma pointed out that they needed a good stock of fast bowlers as there will be 11 matches in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Agarkar, the former India pace bowler, said, “There was discussion about Chahal. He has been a terrific performer. But sometimes it is just the balance of the team and the combination. Axar Patel has been batting well, Kuldeep’s obviously had a fantastic run. To fit two wrist spinners may be tough. You can only fit 15 players, at this point 17. Kuldeep was a bit ahead of Chahal.”
Skipper Rohit Sharma said that they wanted to have a batting line-up that runs deep, till No. 8 and 9, which is why they went for Axar Patel.
“We had a deep discussion about an off-spinner and about a leg-spinner as well. Where thing boils down to is batting option at No. 8 and 9. We wanted somebody who can bat at 8 and 9. Axar has had a good run this year. He batted well in white-ball cricket. Didn’t get much opportunity with red ball. But he batted well in IPL. Played in West Indies but couldn’t get [enough] chances to bat because he bats deep.
“With him there, it allows us a left-hander – someone who we can use up the order to play spinners. He creates that long batting depth. The only thing was that we could get Chahal or any off-spinner [like Ashwin and Washington Sundar] in was to drop one of the seamers. We cannot do that. Seamers will play a big role, considering that there are many matches – nine plus two practice games.”
Sharma, however, said that there is chance for those ignored to make a comeback.
“But the door is not closed [on anyone]. They can come anytime if we feel like having them — Chahal, Ashwin or Washington Sundar.”
The two confirmed that Rishabh Pant is not ready.
The team will undergo a camp for five-six days in Bengaluru before departing for the continental tournament.
Squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Hardik Pandya (Vice-Captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Ishan Kishan (wk), Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Prasidh Krishna.
Reserve player: Sanju Samson.