With less than a month to go for this year’s hybrid model Asia Cup, Team India fans' mind is bound to wander around the composition of the squad and the probable best XI.
While Jasprit Burmah’s timely return provides a major boost, the management is still sweating over the fitness of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul. With those in mind, we tried to pick Team India’s 15-man squad and a possible best XI in this piece.
Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer*, KL Rahul*, Sanju Samson, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj.
*Subject to fitness
Most of the picks are almost self-explanatory, like the top-order led by Captain Rohit Sharma and King Kohli. Shubhman Gill’s recent white ball form means he is also a shoo-in. Middle-order seems to be the muddle, with Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Sanju Samson all vying for a spot in the best XI. Back-up keeper and opener Ishan Kishan could also be an option with his versatility and Left-handedness. SKY was initially considered as the marauding middle-order X-factor but his recent failures mean that he will only come in if either Rahul or Iyer fail to recover.
Hardik Pandya walks in as the premier pace-bowling all-rounder. How Team India manages his workload and how many overs he is able to bowl will be crucial to the combination of the potential best XI. Axar Patel and Jadeja are the options as the spin-bowling all-rounders, both offering excellent fielding and hard hitting ability in the lower order.
The conditions of the Asia Cup means that both are extremely effective spinners. This should give the team flexibility when picking spin/pace combinations, as well as adding extra depth in the batting line-up if necessary.
Jasprit Bumrah returning will be the major boost to Team India’s bowling attack. Him, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj should form a potent pace attack. Shardul Thakur will offer very strong backup and flexibility to add depth to the batting line-up if necessary. On slower wickets, the effectiveness of his variations can’t be denied either. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav will be the wicket-taking trump card of this Asia Cup squad. He can be deadly with the awkward angles chinamen create, which is why he is picked ahead of fellow wrist-spinner Chahal.
Best XI will vary depending on the pitch, opponent and match strategies in mind, so it is not something that is set in stone. However, some spots are already nailed by brilliant performances and even with conditions in mind, you want your best players playing in their best positions. Considering those factors, here is our best XI for Team India in the upcoming Asia Cup.
1. Rohit Sharma (c)
Captain Rohit Sharma will open the innings as he has done for a decade for Team India. Approaching 10,000 runs in this format with an average close to 50, he is one of the all time greats of the game. Even though there have been some rough patches in the recent past, he has generally turned it on in the big stages. Expect this Asia Cup to be no exception, especially considering how he thrives as a captain, averaging almost 56 in the 27 ODIs he has played as the skipper.
2. Shubman Gill
Partnering Rohit Sharma up top will be Team India’s next big thing, Shubman Gill. Averaging more than 60 and striking at 100+, the 24 year-old sensation has taken the ODI game by storm. He has already seen off competition from Ishan Kishan to cement his place at the top of the order, despite Ishan’s advantage of being a left-hander. Gill’s natural stroke-play and attacking intent from the very beginning should complement Rohit, as the captain likes to take his time to get in and then go berserk.
3. Virat Kohli
Arguably the greatest batsman of the modern era, and considered by many to be the greatest white-ball player ever, King Kohli is the default no.3 of this team. Even in the latter stages of his career, the batting order is built around him as he looks to dictate the pace of play. Although he has become more of an anchor for those around him, rather than the flamboyant stroke player he was earlier; he will still set the tone in classic Kohli style. As we have come to see throughout his career, Team India’s fortunes will coincide with their talisman’s form.
4. Shreyas Iyer
Perhaps the most debated position of this Asia Cup. Ideally a fit and firing Shreyas Iyer should walk into the crucial no.4 spot in this best XI. Averaging 47.35 and striking at 94.37 at no.4 he looked best equipped to solve a problem that has plagued Team India for a long time now. His perceived problems against the short ball should also be less of a question mark as the Asia Cup is played in subcontinental conditions. Should Iyer not be fit, one of Samson or maybe even Suryakumar could be given another run at no.4.
5. KL Rahul (wk)
After somewhat struggling as an opener, KL Rahul has established himself as the wicket-keeper batsman at no.5. He has added an extra dimension in that position as someone who has multiple gears and can play according to the situation. His record of 53+ average and strike rate of 97+ both as the keeper and the no.5 batter shows how indispensable he is in that role. If fit he is one of the first names in Team India’s best XI. However if he can’t make it, then Sanju Samson will get that role, with Ishan Kishan a wildcard option as an aggressive left hander.
6. Hardik Pandya
There has been some debate around Pandya potentially batting up the order but no.6 is his best position in the 50 over format. It is low enough that he can play his natural aggressive game without thinking too much about anchoring, also high enough that he doesn’t have to worry about exposing the tale. Stats support this as well, with Pandya averaging his highest at no.6 as well as striking in excess of 100. If Pandya is able to bowl significant spells, he would give Team India an extra edge of having six genuine bowling options.
7. Axar Patel
This spot is a head to head battle between two left-handers Jadeja and Axar Patel. With recent form going his way Axar Patel wins this contest, although by a small margin. 2022 was a brilliant year for him as he averaged 46 and was striking at 137.31 with the bat. He is a containment bowler and his height means that he can extract turn and bounce from the wicket; which is what gives him the edge in Team India’s best XI. He is also a gun fielder, expect him to produce game changing moments in this Asia Cup like his counterpart Jadeja did over the years for India.
8. Mohammed Shami
With text-book seam positions, Mohammed Shami can extract anything the pitch has to offer. This skill will be crucial as the Asia Cup pitches are likely to be batting paradises or turning tracks. He will be vital in taking early wickets with whatever little seam movement there will be on offer. Shami is brilliant at the death as well, capable of hitting pinpoint yorkers and restricting batters. Now that Bumrah is also back, they should form a deadly duo at the death and prevent batters from wreaking havoc in the back end of the innings.
9. Mohammed Siraj
Probably one of the most improved bowlers of the recent past; he has taken 19 wickets in 8 games at a staggering average of 13.21 in 2023. Siraj is particularly devastating in the powerplay, topping the chart of powerplay wicket takers in the previous year. He is an aggressive fast bowler and a fierce competitor, qualities that would serve Team India very well as Asia Cup games tend to boil over, due to neighbouring rivalries.
10. Kuldeep Yadav
Team India have the luxury of having a chinaman in their ranks and he will be the ace in the pack of this attack. Even though subcontinental batsmen historically play spin well, a chinaman will offer a very unique threat due to unfamiliar release points and the ability to turn the ball both ways. The pitches in Asia Cup should suit Kuldeep, who tends to bowl slower through the air to extract maximum possible turn. He can go for a few runs but as he has shown in the recent past, he can get priceless wickets of key opposition players.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
After a lengthy injury lay-off, Team India’s premier fast bowler is back and if fully fit, he slots straight into the best XI. Bumrah’s unique action and skill set means India have a completely different weapon in their arsenal. His slanted action means he can get the ball to tail into the right-handers, he is lethal upfront and can bowl devastating yorkers at the death. In Bumrah India have a bowler who can change the course of the game anytime. Only question would be managing his initial workload, so Shardul Thakur may get an opportunity in some games.
Picking the right combination for a specific game against a specific opposition will be the key for Team India’s success. Small margins will determine the outcomes in this Asia Cup. Because while India are the favourites, other teams aren’t far behind and have very strong player pools to pick their squads from.
Keep an eye out as we will pick our predicted squads and probable best XIs for the other teams in the Asia Cup in the coming days.