August 25th 2023 : The successful landing of Chandrayaan 3 on the Moon’s south pole has every Indian in a state of euphoria and pride. The fabulous achievement of ISRO is just the boost that the Indian cricket team requires when they play in the Asia Cup 23.
The tournament will be a cricketing treat to savour for the millions of Asian cricket lovers. India play Pakistan in their very first match and with Nepal being the third team in the group, both the Asian giants should easily qualify for the Super 4 stage.
The interesting schedule of this tournament is that India and Pakistan will once again play each other in the Super 4 stage to qualify for the final. If they do so, it will be a grand feat to enjoy, especially, for the cricket-starved fans of both countries.
India have named their 17-member squad for the Asia Cup 2023. This seems to be the core group of players from which they will be selecting their 15-member side for the World Cup’23. The issue that bothers one is the fitness of many of their key players. The strain of playing in the Asia Cup, especially, against Pakistan before the World Cup could be very taxing on the body of the players recovering from injuries.
It was nice to see two pacers, Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna, back in Indian colours. Although Bumrah, who spearheads India’s pace attack got some early wickets, he, as very correctly mentioned by the coach Sitanshu Kotak, is still “a work in progress”. Watching Bumrah bowl in Ireland, drew one’s attention to a major concern and that was that he seemed to struggle to bowl the outswing delivery.
There could be two reasons for it, one that he did not want to strain and twist his body excessively or the concerning part would be the change in his bowling action and release. If the latter is true, then good batters will be able to read him quite comfortably.
Similarly, Prasidh too looked like he needed many more deliveries to get his rhythm in place. The most bewildering part of their selection was introducing both these bowlers in a series in Ireland. I had the opportunity to play two seasons there years ago.
Rain and a wet outfield are normal conditions that prevail there.
India is fortunate that both Bumrah and Prasidh did not get injured there. This would be one of the last places to introduce a pace bowler recovering from a serious injury. The slippery conditions while fielding, bowling and especially bowling in the practice nets, could be very risky. India can count themselves lucky that both their pacers’ have come back home safely.
Hardik Pandya, as one saw in the West Indies series, is still not bowling fit. He is a very important player in India’s quest to win the World Cup’23. India needs a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder and he fits the bill perfectly with his hard-hitting batting skills as well. However, he will need to bowl a lot more overs, not only in the Asia Cup but also in the World Cup. One hopes that he can deliver on the big stage as, if he does not, India will find it difficult to replace him.
The automatic selection of K.L.Rahul and Shreyas lyer is also a matter of concern. Both may seem to have recovered from their injuries, however, they will need time to get back into top gear. Both of them are experienced performers and the Indian thinktank, one feels, has once again gone more towards a safer approach. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rinku Singh and Ruturaj Gaekwad are in excellent form and it would have been prudent for the future of Indian cricket to have got them to play in the Asia Cup, especially against Pakistan. One could then gauge their temperament and ability, by exposing them to the steamy pressure situation of an India versus Pakistan cricket encounter.
Unfortunately, one feels India missed a trick there and went for a safer approach rather than a more adventurous one. One can question the exclusion of Yuzvendra Chahal or Ravichandran Ashwin, but a Sunil Gavaskar rightly said, one needs to accept the side chosen and back them to the hilt. However, the final submission of the World Cup’23 squad is on September 27, therefore, India still has time to get the right team in place.
The return of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohd. Shami and Siraj is a welcome sign. Along with the return of K.L. Rahul, lyer, Bumrah and Prasidh, India has 9 players returning to the centre stage against their arch-rival Pakistan, in the very first match of the Asia Cup. Expecting them to be match fit and perform at their peak would be asking for a lot. The road ahead is tough for Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid, especially, with a squad that is still to get into a smooth flow. One hopes they have their plans in place and like the Chandrayaan 3 have a successful landing. To raise our Tiranga with pride and delight would be another wonderful and proud moment for 1.4 billion Indians.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)