India welcomed middle-order incumbents KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer back with open arms in their squad for the Asia Cup 2023 while handing young Tilak Varma a maiden call-up and giving a surprise exit to experienced inner Yuzvendra Chahal.
The 17-member squad for the subcontinental tournament, starting August 30, also features the return to the 50-overs outfit for pace duo Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna. The tall seam combination recently recovered from their sustained rehab for back injuries surgery and proved their match fitness in the first two T20I of the ongoing series in Ireland.
The moment Prasidh and Bumrah were approved for the series in Dublin earlier in the month, they were set for the Asia Cup travelling party, which will build towards the 2023 World Cup. Hence, there was a greater sense of excitement in the air about the comebacks of India’s first-choice No.4 & No.5.
Both Rahul and Iyer had been out of the playing scene since earlier this year as they underwent a painstaking rehab for hamstring and back surgery, respectively. While Rahul last played a competitive game on May 1 when he led Lucknow Super Giants in a league game of IPL 2023 against Royal Challengers Bangalore and hurt his quadriceps while diving, Iyer roughed up his back at the fag end of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in March and hasn’t played any cricket since.
Rahul, however, is still carrying a niggle for an unspecified injury, as confirmed by chief selector Ajit Agarkar in a press conference held in Delhi on Monday.
Agarkar said the injury isn’t “too serious”. But as a precautionary measure, the selectors have named Sanju Samson in the travelling standbys – a surprise demotion in itself for Samson, who has an encouraging ODI record, better than his direct middle-order competitor Suryakumar Yadav, whose One-Day struggles have fallen under scrutiny.
Yet, it is the absence of Chahal that will be talked about for quite some time. The legspinner has an overall fine record since the 2019 World Cup, but his struggles this year, where has also lost his spot as the lead tweaker to Kuldeep Yadav, perhaps went against him. Agarkar hinted the team management is focusing only on allrounders Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep as their three World Cup options in the spin department.
Varma became a late inclusion in the plans after making a bright start to his T20I career in the Caribbean & USA recently. The 20-year-old boasts of an encouraging List A record – averaging 56.18 with a strike-rate of 101.64 – and provides left-arm utility as well as possible part-time spin option to the side.