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K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Tilak Varma make it to India’s Asia Cup squad; Sanju Samson named as reserve player

Right-handed batter K.L. Rahul and Shreyas Iyer have been selected in India’s squad for the upcoming Asia Cup, happening from August 30 to September 17, after recovering in time from a right thigh and back injury respectively.

In a press conference held in New Delhi on Monday, India’s chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar announced the 17-member Asia Cup squad, handing young middle-order left-handed batter Tilak Varma a maiden ODI call-up. Varma has so far been capped in T20Is but is yet to make his ODI debut.  

Rahul has been out of action since injuring his right thigh during his team Lucknow Super Giants’ match in IPL 2023 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 1, when he was chasing the ball to stop a boundary in the second over.

It was later revealed on May 5 that Rahul has suffered a significant tear to a tendon in the right thigh and underwent surgery. After that, Rahul has been undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru to recover from the injury.

On the other hand, Iyer was pulled out mid-way from India’s fourth Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test against Australia at Ahmedabad after suffering a recurrence of a lower back injury.

That injury had earlier ruled Iyer out of the white-ball series against New Zealand at home as well as the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia in Nagpur. Iyer then underwent lower back surgery in May and has been rehabilitating at the NCA too.

In July, the BCCI issued a medical update statement, saying Iyer and Rahul have returned to batting in the nets and upping their fitness drills. Agarkar stated that while Iyer was passed fully fit by the NCA, there, however, is a question mark over Rahul due to a niggle, due to which Sanju Samson is added as a reserve player.

“Both are coming off long-term serious injuries. Shreyas has been declared completely fit. Rahul, not his original injury but there’s a niggle, which is why Sanju is travelling. We’ll get a report from the physio at some stage but we all expect him to be fit. If not at the start, by the second or third game, but he’s on track. Shreyas has been passed fit, which is good news for us,” said Agarkar.

Talking of Varma’s selection, who has been impressive in T20Is since his debut against the West Indies and averages 56.18 with five centuries and as many fifties in 25 List-A games, Agarkar said, “In West Indies, we saw some real promise in terms of not just performances but the temperament. And it gives us an opportunity to take him with the team, give him some more exposure; a left-hander again looks very promising.”

“So fortunately we can take 17 here, it’ll be 15 at the World Cup. So when the time comes we’ll take that decision, but at the moment it at least gives the coach and captain an opportunity to have him with the squad.”

The squad also includes fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna, who made their international comebacks during the ongoing T20I series in Ireland after recovering from back surgeries.  

Mohammed Shami makes a comeback after being rested for the entire tour of West Indies, while Mohammed Siraj and allrounders Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur complete the fast-bowling attack.

In the spin department, leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been dropped, with Kuldeep Yadav preferred as the wrist-spinner along with left-arm spin all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.

India will open their 2023 Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan on September 2, before playing Nepal on September 4. Both of India’s Group A matches will be played at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.

The top two sides from Groups A and B will progress to the Super Fours, where they will play three more games at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, which will also host the final on September 17. The Asia Cup-bound players will assemble at the NCA in Bengaluru for a camp happening from August 24-29 before flying to Sri Lanka for the continental event.

After the conclusion of the six-team tournament, India will play three ODIs at home against Australia from September 22-27, before opening their World Cup campaign, co-incidentally against Australia, on October 8 in Chennai. The deadline to submit a 15-member squad for the World Cup is September 5.  

“We’ve picked these 18 guys. It’ll be in and around these guys (for the Men’s ODI World Cup squad). A few important guys are coming back from injury, hopefully, all goes well with them. They have a few games now at the Asia Cup. There’s a short camp in Bengaluru (at the NCA), followed by a couple of games before we announce the World Cup squad, but it’s quite obvious it’ll be around these guys,” concluded Agarkar.

India’s squad for Asia Cup: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Ishan Kishan, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma and Prasidh Krishna

Reserve player: Sanju Samson

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