The Asia Cup will be played in T20 format in Dubai and Sharjah from August 27 to September 11.
Rahul was supposed to make a comeback for the away ODI series in Zimbabwe but a bout of COVID-19 has apparently delayed his recovery from the sports hernia surgery he underwent recently.
What would be interesting is to find out whether the selection committee, headed by Chetan Sharma, picks a usual squad of 15 or extend it to 17, keeping in mind a chance to try out all possible options.
The Indian squad for the Asia Cup will provide a fair idea about the team’s composition for the T20 World Cup as the team is set to play around a dozen games before its game at the showpiece against Pakistan at the MCG on October 23.
While Rishabh Pant and Suryakumar Yadav have been Rohit Sharma’s opening partners in the last six T20 games, Rahul will get back his place at the top of the order in this line-up.
“KL Rahul doesn’t need to prove anything. He is a class player. Whenever he plays T20, it is always as a specialist opener and that would continue. Surya and Rishabh are set to play as specialist middle-order batters going forward, a BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
One of the most prolific IPL performers, Rahul has often been criticized for his dated approach while opening the innings in T20Is.
But with an Indian team employing an ‘attack at all costs’ philosophy in the Powerplay, propagated by both Pant and Surya, Rahul will certainly need to change his game in the continental tourney in the UAE.
Debate regarding Virat Kohli
While Virat Kohli’s form has been the biggest worry for the Indian team, there is no imminent threat to master batter’s No. 3 slot as he is set to continue in the same slot.
There has been no specific discussions on Kohli’s future in the shortest format and even if he doesn’t have a great Asia Cup, his years of experience and match-winning ability will be difficult to ignore for the marquee event in Australia where experience always rules the roost.
Dinesh Karthik has made one middle-order slot his own while Deepak Hooda is going to be the first back-up option going forward.
The interesting aspect will be whether selectors prefer an extra opener/keeper in Ishan Kishan or an explosive middle-order back-up/keeper in Sanju Samson. Either way, one among the two will miss out.
In the bowling unit, Chahar, who will make a comeback in the Zimbabwe ODIs, in all likelihood, will also be a part of the Asia Cup-bound squad.
“Deepak was one of India’s consistent T20 bowlers before he got injured. He deserves a fair chance and also we need a like-for-like back-up for Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Also now that he is coming back, he would need to play a lot of games to get his rhythm back,” the source added.
Harshal Patel is reportedly down with a rib-cage injury and his inclusion in the squad will be subject to fitness.
As far as the off-spinner’s position is concerned, Washington Sundar won’t be considered for the T20 World Cup as the team management wants to go ahead with the experience of Ravichandran Ashwin alongside Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel.
Similarly, Mohammed Shami has been intimated that he will only be considered for Tests and ODIs.
Asia Cup Squad (In Contention)
Certainties (13): Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Back-Up batter: Deepak Hooda/Ishan Kishan/Sanju Samson
Back-Up Pacers: Arshdeep Singh/Avesh Khan/Deepak Chahar/Harshal Patel.
Back-Up Spinners: Axar Patel/Kuldeep Yadav/Ravi Bishnoi.