India can approach the Asia Cup in two ways: pick your best team, or use the tournament to assess World Cup options. As things stand, provided all fits, the 12 slots are sealed. On the batting front, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja should be the two all-rounders. Yuzvendra Chahal needs to be a wrist spinner to go along with the three fast bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel. This opens up three slots in the eyes of ESPNcricinfo.
Whether India picks their first choice for these 12 and back-up roles for the Asia Cup or give one last chance to the other contenders, it remains to be seen. The idea might be to cover as many bases as possible with the remaining three players. Here are a few options for whom the Asia Cup selection will be important.
Not too long ago, Deepak Chahar could have been India’s favorite option as a powerplay wicket-hunter, but in his injury-free absence, Bhuvneshwar was reminded of his class in time. Chahar’s six-hitting ability will still tempt India, especially to cover the chances of Jadeja not being successful. Jadeja will still remain India’s number one player as an all-rounder but his strike rate with both bat and ball has been a concern this year. So if Jadeja’s batting doesn’t do well, India can look for a more aggressive spin option, with Chahar extending the batting line-up. India would definitely like to see how it goes in the Asia Cup.
A piece of trivia: In 2022, Ashwin has a better batting strike rate than Jadeja in T20Is. But the reason for Ashwin’s re-emergence in this format is not the batting. The offspinner has emerged as the bankable bowler that teams have returned of late: a seasoned bowler with the ability to pick up a lot of wickets in four overs and give you some terrific days. Ashwin has a good chance of playing against teams with multiple left-handers, especially if India can find Jadeja’s runs elsewhere. But if they are up against a heavy right-arm line-up, Chahal and Jadeja will probably play as first-choice spinners, and it is hard to imagine a scenario in which India plays with three spinners.
Axar is a similar back-up for Jadeja. The shorter the format gets, the bigger the threat Axar poses to Jadeja’s space. However, it is unlikely that India will pick a player who is a back-up in that exact role and not much else. Ultimately, it is going to be either Jadeja or Axar in the XI. So if Akshar makes it to the Asia Cup, it would mean that he is still a threat to Jadeja’s place.
Hooda took advantage of every opportunity that came in 2022. He has proved his worth with the ball as well, should he need to bowl an over or two against left-handed batsmen. While it is likely that one of the 12 first-choice batsmen mentioned earlier will already be on the bench, there may still be a place for Hooda as a second batting back-up in the squad of 15.
Arshdeep’s USP is his ability to kill yorkers and the fact that he is the only left-arm fast bowler to run. If India only takes one fast bowling back-up, it could come down to Arshdeep vs Chahar. Arshdeep could have lost on the batting front, as in Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal, India already have two definite starts that are not six hitters. Chances are, India picks both Arshdeep and Chahar for the Asia Cup and see how they go.
Both wrist spinners have been around in T20I set-ups for the past few months, but India’s recent selections suggest that they will not be playing two wristspinners in the same XI, and they may not need a back-up for Chahal . However, don’t be surprised if either Kuldeep and Bishnoi make it to the Asia Cup.