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Explained: The best possible playing XI for India in Asia Cup 2023’s first two games

KL Rahul, Shubman Gill out, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav in: The probable playing XI for India in Asia Cup 2023 opener.

ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022, Super 12, Group 2, India vs Bangladesh_ KL Rahul, Virat Kohli added 67 off 37 balls for 2nd wicket at Adelaide against Bangladesh _ Walking Wicket (Source_ ©AFP_Getty Images)
KL Rahul is fit but likely to miss first two games of Asia Cup (Source: ©ICC/Twitter)

India will start their campaign in Asia Cup 2023 on September 2 against arch-rivals Pakistan at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Sri Lanka.

The India side will be led by skipper Rohit Sharma and for the first time in a while, India will have all their strongest possible members at their disposal as far as the ODI format is concerned.

India Sqaud for Asia Cup 2023: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya (VC), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna.

Travelling Stand-by player: Sanju Samson

Let’s get into the discussion of what would be Team India’s playing XI when they take on Pakistan in their opening fixture.

Ideally, the team on paper should be: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya (VC), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami/ Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Siraj.

But given the fact, KL Rahul is likely to miss the two opening games, the dynamics of team combination could tilt to a great extent.

India vs SA, 1st T20I, 2022, Top Performances_ Ishan Kishan's 76 runs goes in vain as South Africa beat India in 1st T20I (Images ©BCCI)
Ishan Kishan likely to keep and open in Rahul's absence (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
What would be the top-3 if KL Rahul misses out? Gill to be dropped?

Sharma and Gill are expected to open for India in an ideal situation, but owing to wicket-keeper batter Rahul’s injury it is likely that this wouldn’t be possible. In the absence of KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan would have to be drafted into the playing XI, as Sanju Samson is named as the travelling reserve for the tournament.

So, it is likely that Kishan would play as the opener alongside Sharma and this could mean Shubman Gill having to sit out the first few matches. Stats suggest Kishan is a better fit as an opener when compared to a middle-order position. The left-hander has played 6 times as an opener scoring 425 runs, hammering a double century and 3 successive fifties in the recent West Indies series. The number drops to just 106 runs in as many innings when he plays at the No.4 position in ODIs.

Opening seems to be Kishan’s natural position. He has decent numbers at 3 (163 runs in 4 innings) but the position seems to be locked in for the legend, Kohli, by skipper Sharma’s own admission. This puts away any suggestion for India to experiment with Kohli coming at No.4, therefore there’s no chance of Gill coming in at No.3, despite some whispers in the air suggesting he does.

Ind vs SL, 2nd T20I, Dharamsala_ Shreyas Iyer proves himself again with 74_; India take series 2-0 (Image ©BCCI)
Shreyas Iyer likely to retain no. 4 spot on his return (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Iyer is the best fit at No.4 for India

Moreover, with Shreyas Iyer returning to the team, there is arguably no better player for team India at the coveted No.4 slot than him. Iyer has batted 20 times for India in the No.4 position scoring 805 runs at an average of 47.35 and with a strike rate close to 95. So, there is no reason to change his batting order, as it could lead to a lot of imbalances in the team going forward into the World Cup.

Rahul, the designated keeper, was slated to bat at No.5, but his mini absence could provide yet another chance for Suryakumar Yadav to prove his worth as an ODI player or management could feature the uncapped youngster Tilak Varma directly into the playing XI. But it is likely that despite Surya’s shortcomings in the format (511 runs at an average of 24.33 from 24 innings), he will be the one to feature in the game against Pakistan. Tilak may get a chance at some point, but it is highly unlikely that he will be propped in ahead of SKY.

The rest of the team fits snugly with Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya donning the roles of the all-rounder in the side. Jasprit Bumrah and Siraj are likely to share the new ball while Shami or Shardul could be the third pacer according to the team’s requirements. Also, Kuldeep Yadav will be the lone specialist spinner who could find a place in the final playing XI.

India likely playing XI: Rohit Sharma (C), Ishan Kishan (wk), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav/Tilak Varma, Hardik Pandya (VC), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami/ Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Siraj.


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