Team India prepares to make its eagerly awaited return to ODI action in the upcoming Asia Cup, where the side kickstarts its campaign in an electrifying clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 2. However, amidst the excitement and anticipation, a shadow of concern looms over the availability of star batters KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer due to their lingering injury woes.
Undeniably the vital cogs in India’s batting machinery, the duo has been away from action for quite some time; while Iyer hasn’t played a professional match since March earlier this year, Rahul faced a hamstring injury during the 2023 Indian Premier League.
Concerns about Readiness
Over the years, both cricketers have established themselves as first-choice players, injecting dynamism and depth into India’s lineup. However, the extended hiatus from competitive cricket, owing to their respective injuries, raises pertinent questions about their readiness to step back into the fray seamlessly.
KL Rahul’s Absence
Of particular note is the case of KL Rahul, who is also the current first-choice wicketkeeper-batter in the side. In Rahul’s absence, Ishan Kishan dished out solid performances in India’s ODI outings against West Indies, smashing half-centuries in all three of India’s games.
Ravi Shastri’s Viewpoint
Ravi Shastri, the former head coach of the Indian cricket team, believes the return of Rahul may not guarantee an automatic slot in the playing XI. Shastri’s sentiment underscores the importance of evaluating each player’s current form and match fitness, particularly in the context of high-stakes tournaments like the Asia Cup.
“See when when you’re talking of a player (KL Rahul) who’s not played and is recovering from injury. To think of him in the XI of the Asia Cup, you’re asking a little too much of the player himself. And then you’re talking keeping. When a guy comes from an injury, the range of movement and things of that sort, so that’s a no no,” Shastri said on Star Sports.
Possible Batting Order Reshuffle
It is worth noting that the shuffle in the batting order during the recent series against West Indies left many intrigued over the playing XI dynamics. KL Rahul, traditionally slotted at the pivotal No. 5 spot in the batting lineup, saw the emergence of Ishan Kishan, the team’s second-choice wicketkeeper, taking on the role of an opener across all three encounters. This tactical maneuver, while successful, also stirred confusion on whether Rahul will seamlessly reclaim his established position, or Ishan would possibly have to adapt to a different batting slot down the order.
With Rohit Sharma returning to the fold for the Asia Cup – he batted at no. 7 and opted to rest in two ODIs during the West Indies series – it is unlikely that Ishan will take up the opening role when the first-choice players return.