India are likely to field their second XI in the Asia Cup which is slated to be hosted by Sri Lanka sometime towards the end of June. The dates for the Asia Cup will directly clash with the final of the World Test Championship between India and New Zealand in Southampton from the 18th to the 22nd of June. Given the Covid-19 protocols and bio-bubble quarantine rules, the Indian contingent is expected to stay back in England post the WTC final for the five-match Test series which commences on the 4th of August.
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So what would an Indian XI without the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Rishabh Pant look like? India have won the last two editions of the Asia cup – the 2016 edition which was played in the T20 format and the 2018 edition which was the usual ODI format.
The tournament will give India the opportunity to test some of their bench strength ahead of the World T20 later in the year. Some of the players who have performed well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy – India’s premier domestic T20 and 50-over tournaments could be given a chance to show their prowess at the highest level.
We look at a potential Indian XI for the 2021 Asia Cup which will be played in the T20 format.
Shikhar Dhawan will be a certainty in the XI and would well be the captain of the Indian contingent in the Asia Cup. Dhawan is one of India’s leading batsmen in limited overs cricket and though his T20I career has not quite followed the same trajectory as his brilliant ODI career, the veteran left-hander still has the experience and a decent record in the format. Dhawan has an aggregate of 1669 runs in 62 T20I innings at an average of 28.28 and strike rate of 128.28 including 11 fifties in the format. It will be a great opportunity for him to record his maiden hundred for India in the format.
It would be a good time for Prithvi Shaw to make his debut in T20I cricket. The swashbuckling opener has been in devastating form for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy where he is currently the third-highest scorer with 589 runs in 6 matches at a strike rate of 134.78 with three hundreds.
Devdutt Padikkal would also be in the reckoning after he created history by becoming the first Indian and third batsman overall to register 4 consecutive hundreds in List-A cricket – the left-hander achieved the feat in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. Padikkal also scored 218 runs in 6 matches for Karnataka at a strike rate of 134.56 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and outscored both Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 in the UAE.
Suryakumar Yadav would be the ideal choice for number 3 for India. He was in brilliant form in the last edition of the IPL scoring 480 runs for Mumbai Indians in 15 innings at a strike rate of 145.01 including 4 fifties. Yadav was the playmaker in the middle over – the Mr Consistent and Mr Dependable around which the more flamboyant batsmen built their innings. Yadav has the ability and the temperament to play anchor and when the situation demands accelerate and notch up a gear or two.
Shreyas Iyer would be the perfect choice for number 4. He has already represented India in 24 T20Is and 21 ODIs and played a few match-winning knocks for his team. The right-hander has the game to annihilate any bowling attack in the world.
Rahul Tewatia, who has a T20 strike rate of 150.31 and played some stunning match-winning knocks for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2020 would be the perfect candidate at number 6. Tewatia earned a reputation for himself in the coveted league of being a big six-hitter – his best knock came against Kings XI Punjab when he blasted 53 off 31 deliveries including 5 sixes of a Sheldon Cottrell over. Tewatia is also a useful leg-break bowler who can chip in with the odd wicket and keep the batsmen on a tight leash.
Sanju Samson may not be as consistent but when he delivers he ensures that the opposition is left battered and bruised and decimated. Samson started IPL 2020 with two of the most breathtaking knocks in the tournament’s history. He ended with a strike rate of close to 160 and could be used as a lower-order hitter and additional wicket-keeper in the XI.
Deepak Chahar could take the new ball in the Asia Cup along with T Natarajan. Chahar is an expert in bowling in the powerplay with one of the best records in IPL history in the first 6 overs. He has a knack of picking early wickets and bowling a number of dot balls in the powerplay. Natarajan is a T20 specialist and one of the best proponents of the yorker in India. He bowled as many as 64 yorkers in IPL 2020 and will be India’s main bowler at the death.
Yuzvendra Chahal, one of India’s biggest match-winners in limited overs cricket in the last few years, will be the playmaker with the ball in the middle overs. Chahal has the ability to pick wickets and restrict the opposition batsmen during that phase of play. He has picked 59 wickets in 45 T20I matches for India at a strike rate of 17.8.
Mystery spinner, Varun Chakravarthy will hopefully finally get a chance to play for his country in the Asia Cup. Varun was KKR’s bright spot in IPL 2020 ending as their leading wicket-taker with 17 wickets in 13 matches at a phenomenal economy rate of 6.84. He has got many tricks and variations up his sleeve and could be a handful on the slow and low Sri Lankan wickets.
So this is how a second-string Indian XI for the Asia Cup could look like:
1. Shikhar Dhawan (captain)
2. Prithvi Shaw/Devdutt Padikkal
3. Suryakumar Yadav
4. Ishan Kishan (wk)
5. Shreyas Iyer
6. Rahul Tewatia
7. Sanju Samson
8. Yuzvendra Chahal
9. Deepak Chahar
10. T Natarajan
11. Varun Chakravarthy
Do not be surprised if this team pulls off a hat-trick for India at the Asia Cup!
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