K L Rahul makes Asia Cup cut with a rider, Iyer and Varma also named in 17-man squad

K L Rahul and Shreyas Iyer were on Monday named in India's squad for the Asia Cup, while young batter Tilak Varma earned a maiden call-up. Sanju Samson has been added to the squad as a back-up.
Team India for Asia Cup 2023
Team India for Asia Cup 2023

New Delhi | K L Rahul, albeit with a rider, and Shreyas Iyer were on Monday named in India's squad for the Asia Cup beginning August 31 while highly-rated young batter Tilak Varma earned a maiden call-up to the one-day format.

There were question marks over the fitness of Rahul and Iyer, who are making a comeback after undergoing thigh and back surgeries respectively. Iyer last played in March and Rahul in May.

While Iyer was declared fully fit by chief selector Ajit Agarkar, questions remain over Rahul's fitness status.

Wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson has been added to the squad as a back up for Rahul who has developed a niggle recently, informed Agarkar after announcing the squad here.

"It is not the original injury. There is a niggle. That is why Sanju is travelling (to Sri Lanka). We are expecting Rahul to be fit. If not the start of Asia cup may be by the second or the third game. Shreyas Iyer is fully fit," said Agarkar in his first media interaction since taking charge last month.

Pacer Prasidh Krishna, who made a comeback from injury with the ongoing series in Ireland, has also been included in the Asia Cup squad.

Varma has made the cut on the back of an impressive run in his maiden T20 series in the West Indies. The 20-year-old is currently with the T20 squad in Ireland.

Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal was a notable omission from the squad, leaving India with only one wrist spinner in Kuldeep Yadav. Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja are the other spin bowling options.

Hardik Pandya, who has been named vice-captain, and Shardul Thakur, are the two pace bowling all-rounders while Krishna, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammad Shami are the specialist fast bowlers.

X-factor batter Suryakumar Yadav has also found a place despite his underwhelming run in ODIs so far.

All of India's Asia Cup games will be played in Sri Lanka while tournament host Pakistan will get to host four games at home.

Asked about Varma's inclusion in the squad as he is yet to play ODI cricket, Agarkar added: "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." Sitting alongside Agarkar, India skipper Rohit Sharma explained the rationale behind Chahal's exclusion leaving the team with no right hand off-spin option.

"We thought about an offspinner as well, Ashwin and Washy (Washington Sundar), but right now you see Chahal had to miss out because we could only pick 17 players," said Rohit during the media interaction.

"The only way we could have picked him was if one of the seamers was missing. We can't do that because seamers are going to play a big role in the next two months. A few of them are coming back after a long time, so we wanted to have a good look at them, get them in and see what they have to offer.

"Having said that, no doors are closed on anyone. Anyone can come in anytime. If we feel like we need Chahal for the World Cup, we'll see how we can squeeze him in, same goes for Washy or Ashwin."

Squad: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Sanju Samson (back up to Rahul).

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