Will KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah be on the plane to Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup? We will know on Monday, August 21, when the senior men’s selection committee, chaired by Ajit Agarkar, convenes in New Delhi to pick the squad.
It is understood that Rohit Sharma, the India captain, will join the meeting via video conference, along with SS Das, the selector on tour in Ireland with a second-rung squad which is currently in the middle of a three-match T20I series. According to PTI, head coach Rahul Dravid will also be present in his official capacity. The coach is generally not part of the selection meetings.
Rohit’s participation is significant given the selectors are also likely to pencil in the draft squad for the World Cup. While September 5 is the ICC’s deadline to submit the draft squad, it is understood the selection panel wants to pick the same 15 for both events as far as possible. The picked squad, along with a few stand-by players, will then assemble in Bengaluru for a six-day camp prior to their departure to Colombo.
Rahul and Iyer’s fitness status could be a main discussion point as the BCCI awaits a final nod from the NCA. The duo is currently in Bengaluru, where they have been put through a series of match-simulation exercises and practice matches to test their readiness for 50-over cricket.
Iyer is understood to have ticked most boxes in his first practice game earlier this week, where he fielded for the entire 50 overs and batted for 38 without much discomfort. The match was closely monitored by NCA chief VVS Laxman and batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar. Rahul, who didn’t feature in that game, is expected to line up alongside Iyer for a second practice game on Sunday.
Rahul’s fitness is key to India solving their wicketkeeper conundrum, especially with Rishabh Pant still recovering from injuries sustained during a serious car crash in December.
If picked, Rahul is likely to bat at No. 5 and keep wicket. If he isn’t, Ishan Kishan is the frontrunner for the wicketkeeper’s role. Kishan’s selection could also then lead to a bit of a shuffle in the batting order. It’s something several former cricketers, including former head coach Ravi Shastri, feel strongly about.
Iyer, meanwhile, solves the crucial No. 4 debate should he be fit. It’s a position that proved to be India’s bugbear at the 2019 World Cup, when the MSK Prasad-led selection committee punted on Vijay Shankar’s all-round skills over Ambati Rayudu, who was the designated No. 4 for much of India’s build-up to the tournament. Eventually, Shankar’s injury paved the way for Pant’s belated inclusion in the squad.
In Iyer’s absence, India recently tried out Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson and Axar Patel at No. 4 in the Caribbean. Suryakumar, India’s T20I vice-captain, admitted having not been able to make the best use of his opportunities at that spot, and the team management is believed to be trying him as a finisher.
Bumrah, meanwhile, opened India’s Ireland tour with a Player-of-the-Match winning effort in Dublin on Friday. Bumrah took 2 for 24; both his strikes came in his opening over upon a return to international cricket after 11 months. Prasidh Krishna, another key bowler in India’s World Cup plans, also made a promising return and picked up two wickets.
India open their Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan on September 2, before playing Nepal on September 4. Both games will be played in Pallekele, with the top two sides of the group progressing through to the Super 4s, where they will play three more games.
After the Asia Cup, India will also play three ODIs at home against Australia prior to opening their World Cup campaign, also against Australia, on October 8 in Chennai.
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