Amidst India’s swinging fortunes in England, buzz has grown around the upcoming Asia Cup 2018 ever since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a 16-member squad for the tournament on September 1.
The MSK Prasad-led selection committee afforded a rest to skipper Virat Kohli with Rohit Sharma set to lead India in the tournament which is set to start on September 15 and will be played in the United Arab Emirates. Elsewhere, 20-year-old fast bowler Khaleel Ahmed also found a place in India Asia Cup Squad as the selectors were looking to try out a left handed pace bowling option ahead of the World Cup next year.
The rest of the squad is on expected lines with Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu both finding a place in the touring party. Players like Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammad Siraj and Siddarth Kaul were unlucky to have missed out.
Asia Cup 2018 India Squad
Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan (vc), KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, K Khaleel Ahmed
Ahead of Asia Cup 2018, here is our take on India’s predicted playing 11 for the tournament:
1. Rohit Sharma (Captain)
Despite scoring a century, Rohit Sharma had a rather forgettable outing during the limited-overs leg of India’s tour of England and has been forced to watch the action unfold from the sidelines after being left out of the Test squad. Nonetheless, the ‘Hitman’ has been handed over the reigns of India Asia Cup Squad and will be expected to lead from the front, particularly in the absence of talisman Virat Kohli. The defending champions’ batting will revolve around their stand-in skipper and one feels that the ‘homely’ conditions on offer in UAE should suit his style well.
2. Shikhar Dhawan
Prior to the announcement of India’s Asia Cup 2018 squad, there was speculation that Shikhar Dhawan was a prime candidate to be rested for the tournament owing to his long sojourn of England. Instead, the selectors named him as vice-captain for the event and the swashbuckling southpaw is certain to feature in the playing XI when India play their opening fixture on September 18. Like most of his teammates, Dhawan has also endured a torrid time against the swinging ball in England and will be itching to get back in the groove in rather familiar territory.
3. KL Rahul
KL Rahul has been touted as the future of Indian batting for quite some time now but other than a few sporadic flashes of brilliance, the 26-year-old top order batsman has well and truly failed to live up to the hype so far. His struggles in England have been well-documented and time might soon be running out for Rahul if he does not add consistency to his game. Asia Cup 2018 will provide him with a golden chance of batting at the coveted Number 3 position and redeeming himself in a bid to stake a claim in India’s middle-order.
4. Manish Pandey
Having starred in the recent Quadrangular Series as captain of the winning India B side, Manish Pandey will be another player looking to make the most of his chances in the Asia Cup. A stalwart in India’s domestic circuit, Pandey has never been able to replicate his form on the international stage. However, the fact that he has rarely been afforded a consistent run of games also needs to be acknowledged and taken into count here. It is almost certain that Pandey will be given the first go to shine ahead of Ambati Rayudu and if his recent form is any indication, the 29-year-old Karnataka batsman can be counted on to make his opportunity count this time around.
5. MS Dhoni (wk)
Former captain MS Dhoni has now assumed the role of an elderly statesman in India’s limited-overs sides and remains a key cog ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England. With Kedar Jadhav back in the side, it remains to be seen whether the team management asks Dhoni to bat higher up but indications are that they will do so. It has been clear for quite a while now that Dhoni is no longer the dasher he once was and batting at Number 5 will afford him the time to get going and anchor the innings in the middle-overs. Other than his batting, the 37-year-old is still the best wicketkeeper in the country by a mile and his inputs from behind the wickets will also be key for stand-in captain Rohit Sharma.
6. Kedar Jadhav
Kedar Jadhav will be making his comeback to the national side in Asia Cup 2018 after a long injury layoff. The Maharashtra all-rounder will be entrusted with the responsibility of finishing the innings off on a high and also roll his arm over for some handy overs in between. The wickets in UAE will be of slowish nature and Jadhav’s unorthodox style of bowling might be handy for Team India. The 33-year-old has been a late bloomer in international cricket but could be a crucial performer for India leading up to next year’s World Cup.
7. Hardik Pandya
Despite his apparent limitations as an international level cricketer, Hardik Pandya continues to enjoy the utmost faith of selectors and perhaps rightly so. The only other realistic alternatives as fast bowling all-rounders in the country are Vijay Shankar and Stuart Binny. Pandya has certainly developed a lot as a player in the last two years or so and will most certainly be on the plane to England next summer. With India only playing a handful of ODI matches before that, the Mumbai Indians star will be aiming to transform into a more reliable performer who can chip in with handy runs and also bowl a few overs without conceding too many runs in the middle.
8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Persistent injury problems have kept Bhuvneshwar Kumar out of the ongoing Test series against England but the swing bowler has now been declared fit and will be leading India’s bowling attack in Asia Cup 2018. The 28-year-old has established himself as one of the best white-ball bowlers in world cricket at present and is particularly lethal in death overs as he is very difficult to take for runs in that period. Other than the priceless ability to swing the new ball, Bhuvneshwar has also developed a deadly knuckle ball to add more variety to his armoury. Much will depend on his bowling if India are to defend their title in UAE.
9. Kuldeep Yadav
Alongside Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav is arguably the best spin bowler in limited-overs cricket at present. The young left-arm chinaman has been such a revelation ever since being inducted into the senior Indian side that him and Yuzvendra Chahal have effectively upstaged Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the country’s ODI and T20 setup. Kuldeep has picked up 26 wickets in 9 ODIs played this year and will once again be a key weapon in captain Rohit Sharma’s armoury in Asia Cup 2018.
10. Yuzvendra Chahal
The other half of India’s ace spin duo, Yuzvendra Chahal has also been a key contributor to India’s success in the shorter formats. The Haryana bowler has a rather average outing in the ODI series in England and will be looking to make amends on UAE’s helpful tracks once the Asia Cup starts on September 15. Other than bowling miserly spells, Chahal also has the knack of picking up crucial wickets and breaking partnerships in middle overs.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah sustained an injury to his hand while India were still in Ireland and was subsequently ruled out of the complete limited-overs leg and the first two Tests against England. That his absence was felt by skipper Virat Kohli will be an understatement as Bumrah showed his mettle instantly in the Trent Bridge Test. Like Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah is also an automatic selection in all three formats when fit and will be relied on to unsettle opposition batsmen with his awkward bowling style in Asia Cup 2018.