As anticipation builds, cricket awaits the Monday meeting chaired by Ajit Agarkar to finalize Asia Cup and World Cup draft squads. KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Jasprit Bumrah’s fate hangs in the balance.
Cricket fans across India are eagerly waiting to find out if star players KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Jasprit Bumrah will secure spots on the plane to Sri Lanka for the upcoming Asia Cup. The much-anticipated decision will be unveiled on Monday, August 21, as the senior men’s selection committee, led by chairman Ajit Agarkar, gathers in New Delhi to finalize the squad.
Adding to the intrigue, India’s skipper Rohit Sharma is set to join the meeting via video conference, along with selector SS Das, who is currently with a secondary squad in Ireland competing in a three-match T20I series.
Rohit’s participation in the discussions takes on significant importance as the selectors are also likely to outline the draft squad for the World Cup. Although the ICC’s deadline for the draft squad submission is September 5, sources suggest the selection panel is inclined to choose the same 15 players for both the Asia Cup and the World Cup, wherever feasible. Following selection, the chosen squad, along with a few standby players, will convene in Bengaluru for a six-day training camp before their departure to Colombo.
Rahul and Iyer’s fitness status is expected to be a central topic during the selection meeting, as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) awaits a final clearance from the National Cricket Academy (NCA). Both players are currently stationed in Bengaluru, where they have undergone an array of match-simulation drills and practice matches to assess their readiness for the 50-over format.
Reports indicate that Iyer has made positive strides in his first practice game this week, demonstrating his ability to field for the entire 50 overs and bat for 38 runs without significant discomfort. NCA chief VVS Laxman and batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar closely observed the match. Rahul, who was absent from that game, is anticipated to team up with Iyer for a second practice match on Sunday.
Rahul’s fitness holds key implications for India’s wicketkeeper situation, particularly with Rishabh Pant still on the road to recovery following injuries sustained in a serious car accident last December. Should Rahul be chosen, he is likely to take up the role of both a middle-order batsman and wicketkeeper. Alternatively, Ishan Kishan is positioned as the frontrunner for the wicketkeeper’s role if Rahul is unavailable. Kishan’s inclusion could also prompt a reshuffling of the batting order, an idea supported by former cricketers, including ex-head coach Ravi Shastri.
The potential return of Shreyas Iyer addresses the longstanding No. 4 dilemma. This position plagued India during the 2019 World Cup, where the selection committee opted for Vijay Shankar’s all-round capabilities over Ambati Rayudu, the designated No. 4 for much of the tournament’s lead-up. Ultimately, Shankar’s injury paved the way for Pant’s delayed entry into the squad.
In the absence of Iyer, India experimented with Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, and Axar Patel at the No. 4 spot during the Caribbean tour. Vice-captain of India’s T20I team, Suryakumar, expressed his dissatisfaction with his performance in that role, and there are rumors that the team management might consider him as a finisher instead.
Meanwhile, Jasprit Bumrah made a triumphant comeback in India’s Ireland tour opener in Dublin on Friday. Bumrah’s splendid figures of 2 for 24, both wickets coming in his first over, marked his return to international cricket after an 11-month hiatus. Prasidh Krishna, another crucial component in India’s World Cup plans, also exhibited a promising return by claiming two wickets.
India’s Asia Cup journey commences against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 2, followed by a clash with Nepal on September 4, both matches to be held in Pallekele. The top two teams from the group stage will progress to the Super 4s, where they will face off in three more contests.
Post the Asia Cup, India’s focus shifts to a home ODI series against Australia, comprising three matches. Subsequently, they are slated to commence their World Cup campaign against Australia on October 8 in Chennai. Cricket enthusiasts worldwide are awaiting the final squad announcement with bated breath, as the stage is set for yet another thrilling cricketing chapter.