The Rohit Sharma-led Indian cricket team will start its Asia Cup campaign in a high-voltage clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 2. Apart from having a big emotional value, the match starts the final phase of preparation for the team ahead of the ODI World Cup at home. India’s squad for the Asia Cup is almost on expected lines with two players – KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer – inducted straightway after making a comeback from injury. Sanju Samson has been named as the back-up player, with Rahul still carrying a niggle, according to BCCI chief selector Ajit Agarkar.
NDTV analyses the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for the Indian cricket team ahead of the Pakistan clash.
# A set top-three
Indian top-3 are set and as a group is one of the strongest in the world. India are expected to open with Captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. Rohit is one of the best openers in the world whereas Shubman Gill has been in amazing form in ODIs since 2022. Gill is the highest-ranked batter in the Asia Cup squad. He is 5th in the latest ICC ODI batting ranking.
Rohit is the only opener to average 50+ in ODI after scoring 3000+ runs, while Gill has the highest average (69.4) in ODI since 2022 (MIN: 500 Runs).
Virat Kohli is 102 runs away from scoring 13000 runs in ODI. He will become the 5th player in ODI to score 13000 or more runs. Also, Kohli has the best average (57.3) among batters to score 10000+ runs in ODI. He is one of the 2 batters to average 50+ in ODI after scoring 10000+ runs, other being MS Dhoni who averages 50.6. He has the 2nd most centuries (46) in ODI after Sachin Tendulkar who has 49.
# Pace prowess
Indian pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah is back for India after more than a year in ODIs. Bumrah last played an ODI for India on July 14th, 2022. Bumrah has the 3rd best bowling average (24.3) among active pace bowlers in ODI (MIN: 100 Wickets). Furthermore, Indian pacers have the joint best bowling average in ODI since 2022. Even without Bumrah Indian pacers were great and addition of Bumrah will be an added benefit to the bowling unit in ODI. Indian bowlers have done well in ODI since 2022 and both pacers and the spinners have been in great form in ODI since 2022.
# Not a settled middle order?
The number 4 spot has been a reason of bother for India since the ICC 2019 Cricket World Cup. India have tried out many players at the number 4 spot, but it has not worked out. Shreyas Iyer has scored 805 runs while batting at number 4 for India since 2019 ICC World Cup. However, he is returning to international cricket after an injury.
Another option for number 4 spot is Surya Kumar Yadav but he has scored 30 runs in 5 innings at the number 4 spot. Furthermore, Suryakumar Yadav in ODI has not been impressive. He is averaging 24.3 in ODI and has scored 511 runs in 24 innings.
Another concern is KL Rahul’s fitness. KL Rahul is India’s leading run scorer while batting in the middle order since 2019 ICC CWC. However, he is also coming after an injury and will miss out first few matches of the Asia Cup with a niggle meaning Ishan Kishan will keep wickets for India.
Ishan Kishan has scored 106 runs in 6 innings in the middle order. But Ishan Kishan was used as an opener in the recent ODI series vs WI when India had the option to try him in the middle order. Also, India have added another new face in the squad for middle order i.e., Tilak Varma. He has made it to the Asia Cup squad after an impressive T20I series against WI and impressive IPL season.
o But he has no experience while batting in the middle order in ODI and being called up to the squad before the World Cup ahead of the likes of Sanju Samson who has been named as the reserve player is shocking.
# Number 4 position
There are various opportunities for players at number 4 to seal their spot for the World Cup 2023 with an impressive Asia Cup. Shreyas Iyer, who has been India’s best number 4, since 2019 ICC CWC will look to cement his place in the playing XI. However, if Iyer is not fit enough and if he fails at the number 4 spot then we might see players like Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma given a chance at this spot.
If KL Rahul is fit enough, then his place in Indian playing XI as a wicket keeper batter is almost guaranteed. KL Rahul is the only Indian batter to average 50+ while batting in the middle order since 2019 ICC CWC (MIN: 500 Runs)However, if KL Rahul is not fit enough and there might be fitness concerns after an injury then this place is up for grabs for the likes of Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson.
Ishan Kishan is expected to start in the playing XI as Rahul will miss the first 2-3 matches in the Asia Cup 2023. If Ishan Kishan performs then we might see KL Rahul out for a long time.
# Players returning to the squad after injuries. The form for players returning from injuries is unknown and they might take some time to regain full match fitness.
# Lack of batting depth for India is also a concern. There is no high-profile replacement in the squad for Hardik Pandya. If the fast-bowling allrounder is injured their is no like-for-like replacement who can deliver with same intensity.
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