India Asia Cup squad – KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah make the cut

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KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer have been selected in India’s ODI squad for the Asia Cup after recovering in time from a thigh and a back injury respectively.

The 17-man Asia Cup squad announced by chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar in Delhi on Monday included rookie left-hander Tilak Varma, who hasn’t played ODI cricket yet.

Fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna, who made their international comebacks during the ongoing T20I series in Ireland after recovering from back surgeries, were also selected. Mohammed Shami made a comeback after being rested for the entire tour of West Indies, while Mohammed Siraj and allrounders Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur complete the pace attack.

“In West Indies, we saw some real promise in terms of not just performances but the temperament,” Agarkar said of Tilak’s selection. “And it gives us an opportunity to take him with the team, give him some more exposure; a left-hander again, looks very promising. So fortunately we can take 17 here, it’ll be 15 at the World Cup. So when the time comes we’ll take that decision, but at the moment it at least gives the coach and captain an opportunity to have him with the squad.”

“We thought about an offspinner as well, [R] Ashwin and Washy [Washington Sundar], but right now you see Chahal had to miss out because we could only pick 17 players,” India captain Rohit Sharma said at the press conference. “The only way we could have picked him was if one of the seamers was missing. We can’t do that because seamers are going to play a big role in the next two months. A few of them are coming back after a long time, so we wanted to have a good look at them, get them in and see what they have to offer. Having said that, no doors are closed on anyone. Anyone can come in anytime. If we feel like we need Chahal for the World Cup, we’ll see how we can squeeze him in, same goes for Washy or Ashwin.”

Ishan Kishan was chosen over Sanju Samson as the second wicketkeeper in the squad, behind Rahul, with the left-hand batter doubling up as a reserve opener. Samson, however, will travel to Sri Lanka as a back-up player.

“You don’t want to be handicapped or stuck with one player batting in one position. Having said that, you want to get the best out of players in certain positions. All seven-eight [positions] are open to anyone, that’s the message we have sent out for so many years now”

Rohit Sharma on flexibility in the batting line-up

“We’ve picked these 18 guys. It’ll be in and around these guys [for the World Cup squad],” Agarkar said. “A few important guys coming back from injury, hopefully all goes well with them. They have a few games now at the Asia Cup. There’s a short camp in Bengaluru] followed by a couple of games before we announce the World Cup squad, but it’s quite obvious it’ll be around these guys.”

Rahul and Shreyas had spent several weeks undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and took part in match-simulation exercises in the days leading up to their selection. Rahul has not played any competitive cricket since he was injured during IPL 2023, while Shreyas has been out of action since Australia’s tour of India in March. Agarkar said that while Shreyas was passed fully fit, there was still a question mark over Rahul.

“Both are coming off long-term serious injuries. Shreyas has been declared completely fit. Rahul, not his original injury but there’s a niggle, which is why Sanju is travelling,” Agarkar said. “We’ll get a report from the physio at some stage but we all expect him to be fit. If not at the start, by the second or third game, but he’s on track. Shreyas has been passed fit, which is good news for us.”

Apart from Tilak’s inclusion, there were no surprises in the batting unit and Rohit said the team management wanted to be flexible with the batting order.

“One thing I want in this team is to make sure everyone is okay to bat anywhere,” Rohit said. “You need flexibility, guys who can step up at any position. No one should say, ‘I’m good at this position or I’m good at that position’. You want guys to be able to bat anywhere, that’s the message conveyed to every individual. Not now, but over the last three-four years. I know it’s tough for guys on the outside to understand why a guy who bats at six is batting at four, but the message has been given. You don’t want to be handicapped or stuck with one player batting in one position. Having said that, you want to get the best out of players in certain positions. All seven-eight [positions] are open to anyone, that’s the message we have sent out for so many years now.”

The Asia Cup begins on August 30 with Pakistan hosting Nepal in Multan. India’s first Group A game is against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2, after which they play Nepal in Pallekele on September 4. Group B comprises Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and the top two teams from each group will progress to the Super Four stage. The sides that finish one and two in the Super Fours will contest the final in Colombo on September 17.

India squad for Asia Cup: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), 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