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What should be India's ideal combination for Asia Cup 2023?

Asia Cup 2023: What should be Team India's ideal combination for Asia Cup? Will it be dress-rehearsal for India ahead of ODI World Cup 2023? Some marquee players likely to make their India comeback.

CWC 2023_ India beat West Indies by 2-1 margin in ODI series _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©ICC_Twitter)
India likely to keep experimentation at bay in Asia Cup 2023 (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)

Asia Cup 2023, the 16th edition of the biggest multi-national cricket tournament in Asia, is set to commence on August 31 in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Lankan team are the defending champions in what is essentially a precursor to ODI cricket’s ultimate showcase event, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 that is slated to take place in India later this year.

This Asia Cup will feature 6 teams with the likes of Pakistan and Bangladesh having already named their respective teams for this prestigious event. Now, all the focus is on the Indian squad for not only this event but also the World Cup. It is safe to assume that most of the 15 players who will be selected for the Asia Cup squad will get a ticket to World Cup happening at home.

However, there is uncertainty when it comes to the India squad due to injury concerns to many of their first-choice players and this is one of the main reasons why we don’t have clarity on who can possibly feature in the Asia Cup squad.

Let’s take a look at the best possible combination that could take field for India in the upcoming event.

Opening batters: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan

India’s opening batting seems to be sorted at the moment as the trio of skipper Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill have had plenty of game time with respect to ODI cricket going into the Asia Cup. Even in the recently concluded series against West Indies, Ishan and Gill played all the games as openers with Rohit Sharma sitting out.

When it comes to ODI cricket, openers play a key role and these batters have a proven track record in the 50-overs format as dangerous white-ball players. India will be wanting them to provide the team with good starts often. Shubman is the highest ranked ODI batter from India averaging over 62 in his career with 4 centuries since 2022, while Rohit is marching towards the 10,000-run mark in ODIs.

Ishan could be the backup keeping option for Rahul or even as a batter and has had game time in the recent times. In 17 ODI games, Kishan has scored 694 runs, and this includes a double century and 6 fifties at an average of just under 47.

Top and Middle Order: Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson/Tilak Varma/Suryakumar Yadav

Virat Kohli is arguably the most complete batter in the history of ODI cricket. The legendary batter who is just shy of reaching the 13,000-run mark in ODIs will boost India’s batting in his own way along with KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer.

The duo of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul were vital cogs for India’s ODI middle order until they got injured earlier this year. With them still recuperating from their injuries, India had to experiment with the likes of Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and Suryakumar Yadav at some stages during this time period. While it didn’t yield the results that were expected, India will be banking on the fitness of the above said duo.

After all, Shreyas looked the best no. 4 batter for India in a while (805 runs in 20 innings at 47.35 apiece), and Rahul was India’s first-choice wicket-keeper batter who equally excelled at his no. 5 role scoring 742 runs at an average of 53 with a century to his name. The trio could form the middle order in the Asia Cup as well as the World Cup.

However, things could change if one or both are not available for selection. The team has several options to go to in their absence, namely Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson and Tilak Varma.

Suryakumar, the no. 1 T20I batter, was tried in all positions ranging from 3 to 6 but couldn’t replicate the success he showed in the shortest format. He averages 24.33 in 24 ODI innings having scored 511 runs with just 2 half-centuries which is really low by his own admission.

Sanju Samson, the wicket-keeper batter, has performed better than Surya in the format having scored 390 runs at 55.71 a strike rate of 104 with 3 half-centuries. But given India’s preference for Ishan Kishan in ODIs as the backup keeper in the absence of Rahul and Sanju Samson’s limited game time, we may not see Samson vying for the back-up wicket keeper slot. But it could be a toss-up between him, Suryakumar and Tilak Varma for an extra batter in the squad.

There is an outside chance that Tilak Varma could also feature in the 15 given his commendable debut in the West Indies, although in the T20I format. However, Varma’s domestic List A average of over 56 coupled with his dominant style of play can help his way to India’s ODI team selection. He is yet to debut at the ODI level but lack of a left-hand batter at the top could make the selectors consider him for the Asia Cup.

CWC 2023_ India beat West Indies by 2-1 margin in ODI series _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Surya's ODI numbers could make way for Shreyas Iyer (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Lower Middle Order: Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur

Just like the top-order, India’s lower middle order comprising of all-rounders looks fixed. Hardik Pandya has held his own leading this young side in West Indies in most games and has performed decently in both the departments. In 2023, Pandya has made 280 runs and taken 10 wickets in 11 ODIs he featured, which is decent.

Ravindra Jadeja did have a good time with the ball in West Indies and in IPL, so the veteran all-rounder will bolster India in many ways. He has an experience of playing 177 ODIs, and is on the verge of making 3000-career runs and 200 wicket double in ODIs.

Axar Patel has been consistent with bat and ball whenever he has had an opportunity in India colours over the last few years. His prowess with the bat has improved and might be a crucial asset as a like-to-like replacement for Jadeja whenever the need arises.

Shardul Thakur became an integral part of the ODI team in the last 2 years or so, revelling as a wicket-taker along with Siraj. The pacer who can contribute with bat as well has taken 36 wickets since 2022 (58 overall) in 23 games and took 8 wickets on the recent West Indies tour. He can be India’s additional pacer if they intend to go with 4 pacers and as his batting abilities makes the Indian tail not so long.

Bowlers: Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Mukesh Kumar/Prasidh Krishna

Jasprit Bumrah who has 121 wickets in 72 games at an average of 24.31, is set to return to the Indian set up with the Ireland T20I series. He will lead the pace attack and share the workload along with Siraj and Shami. While Bumrah and Shami have a decorated history as Indian ODI pacers, Siraj is on the rise in this format (43 wickets since 2022, most by an Indian in the period).

We may see Siraj and Bumrah starting and Shami finding a place in case India look to have a four-pronged pace attack and not worry about the long tail. Either way, India will bank on their experience of playing at the big stage and ability to perform in pressure situations.

Kuldeep Yadav has been sensational as a spinner and his form before the World Cup is one of the best things to have happened to Indian cricket. In the 19 games he has featured for India in this format, the chinaman bowler has picked 34 wickets.

Kuldeep is back to his wicket-taking best and might pip his fellow leggie Yuzvendra Chahal in the playing XI in case India play with a solitary specialist spinner.

The other players who stand a chance are Mukesh Kumar, the latest debutant pacer, and Prasidh Krishna.

Mukesh Kumar, who is part of the Indian team in West Indies, might get to feature in Asia Cup. His death bowling has been really good and India can use his ability to good effect as we have seen in the West Indies tour.

Prasidh Krishna is returning from injury but had a decent start to his ODI career taking 25 wickets in 14 games and can be lethal in the middle overs. His high pace and ability to make things happen might give him a chance.

While Team India have most of the things covered, it will be interesting to see how they fare without some of the following options:

  1. Lack of left-hander in the top-order. The World Cup hosts do have Ishan Kishan and Tilak as options, but they are not the first choice ODI players now. Pant’s absence is being felt currently.

  2. India don’t have a proper off-spinner in their rank and when they face a team filled with left-handers, the home team could be found wanting. Ravichandran Ashwin is an option, but he hasn’t played in more than a year in ODIs.

  3. Lack of left-arm seamer in the bowling attack will be a concern. Arshdeep hasn’t been tried at the ODI level and the only option they have is Jaydev Unadkat who is yet to impress in the chances he got.

India’s best possible playing XI for Asia Cup: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma (C), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya (VC), Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

India’s possible playing XI for Asia Cup (if KL Rahul and Shreyas are not fit): Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma (C), Virat Kohli, Ishan Kishan (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Suryakumar Yadav/Tilak Varma, Hardik Pandya (VC), Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah


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