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  5. Return of Shreyas Iyer, Rahul from injury to Ishan Kishan problem: 5 challenges India face ahead of Asia Cup

Return of Shreyas Iyer, Rahul from injury to Ishan Kishan problem: 5 challenges India face ahead of Asia Cup

Team India is all geared up for their first big challenge in months in the one-day internationals, the Asia Cup where they will be playing at least five games if not more and will have an opportunity to get probably the best preparation ahead of the Australia series and then the World Cup.

Written By: Anshul Gupta New Delhi Published on: August 28, 2023 7:00 IST
5 challenges India face ahead of Asia Cup 2023
Image Source : GETTY/AP 5 challenges India face ahead of Asia Cup 2023

Team India is gearing up for what will be a massive two and half months of relentless high-pressure cricket where they will be playing at least 20 ODIs (including a couple of warm-up games) and it all starts on Saturday, September 2 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup in Kandy. Team India's preparations have been far from ideal in the lead up to the tournament keeping in mind the injuries to key players which forced the management to look for stop-gap solutions, which didn't really work. The players are currently in Bengaluru, undergoing a preparatory camp ahead of the tournament to get into some match simulation before the big game in a few days.

India's Asia Cup squad has covered probably all the bases but the players returning from their respective injuries will be in focus, not just the batters but bowlers too. Most of the first-choice players for the Asia Cup and the World Cup haven't played together for a long time and hence the team will have to hit the ground running and their record in multi-team tournaments is already abysmal, especially in the last few years.

Here's a look at five challenges for India ahead of the Asia Cup which they will be hoping to overcome or find answers to in the next couple of weeks or so-

Return of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul: The biggest and probably the most heartening news from India's Asia Cup announcement was the return of the duo of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul. The Indian middle order in the ODIs in the last year and a half has revolved around the presence of Iyer and Rahul at No. 4 and 5 and their consistent performances is one of the reasons why the team management was hell bent on ensuring that they get fit before the continental tournament. They have done that actually. But no cricket for several months and straight into a high-pressure tournament like Asia Cup, will it be too much. Well that's the key aspect to be looked as there is two and half months of relentless cricket coming and India will need them both, fit and firing.

Is Ishan Kishan backup opener, backup keeper or backup middle order? Skipper Rohit Sharma and chief selector Ajit Agarkar in the press conference made it clear that Ishan Kishan is the third opener. And it is very obvious as Ishan opened in all three matches against the West Indies and did well to secure his place in the side. But if Rohit and Shubman Gill open and as Agarkar mentioned that Rahul might be doubtful for the tournament opener, then Kishan will have to bat in the middle order. But will he? If he will, why wasn't he tried at No. 5 against the West Indies? I guess, we'll know about that when the team sheet arrives on Saturday, September 2.

Then who is the backup middle-order batter? If before naming the side the selectors and the team management knew that KL Rahul might be doubtful for the Pakistan game on Saturday, Sanju Samson should have been in the automatic pick. But it seems that the selectors have made up their mind that Kishan has taken that place and he will have to chip in, if need be. Suryakumar Yadav retains his spot as the joker in the pack despite having an average of 25 in the ODI format, the team management is keen rather, hoping that he can do it in 50-over as well, as he does in the T20Is. Tilak Varma is also there, the newest pick. Where does he fit in all of this?

Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna returning to ODIs after more than a year - Indian pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna returned to competitive cricket after 11 months and a year, respectively, last week in the T20 series against Ireland. The workload for both of them is being slowly built up and suddenly they will now be bowling 10 overs each, more than the double they sent down in a game last week. However, as Bumrah said, he has been preparing for the same, bowling 10, 12 and sometimes even 15 overs in the nets. Not just he, Krishna too looked fit and it seemed like both were raring to go. But yes, the Asia Cup will be the real test because five games in 12 days won't be easy.

Third pacer? If Shardul Thakur plays, which is probably every game if he is fit looking at the lack of all-round options in the line-up, India can only fit two pacers in the line-up since Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav will take two spin spots. If Jasprit Bumrah is fit, he walks in and so does Mohammed Siraj, who has been exceptional in the ODI format for the last year or so. So who is the third or the backup seamer in the 15? Mohammed Shami has been a regular for India for probably a decade and his numbers might be a little inconsistent but what he offers with the new ball can't be discounted. Apart from the experience bit, Krishna offers similar role too and if the team management gives a slight preference to death bowling then Shami might just sneak into the World Cup squad but yes, both will play matches in the Asia Cup to give an idea to the management to zero down on the final 15.

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