India’s squad announcement for Asia Cup 2018 might well be dominated by those who are rested than those who are picked.
But, it does present India with the options to zero in on their middle-order conundrum; one who can solidify the innings in the middle-overs and who can, ideally, also roll his arm over and delve into their bowling reserves; their nemesis in the recently concluded ODI series against England.
Here’s a look at the jigsaw puzzles that the Indian selectors face themselves with:-
Pant in ODIs over DK?
It wasn’t long when Dinesh Karthik was the talk of the town after his blitz in the Nidahas Trophy final and an outstanding IPL for the Kolkata Knight Riders’, but the purple patch betrayed him when it mattered the most.
With an under-par ODI series in England and a slew of low scores in the four innings that he played in the Test matches, Karthik found himself out of favour for the third Test with Rishab Pant donning the gloves. Pant has thus far shown flashes of brilliance and the Delhi lad might just replace DK as the backup wicket-keeping option in ODIs. But, it may not be curtains for Dinesh Karthik. On the lifeless pitches of UAE and in the format he relishes, he might still end up finding his place as a lower-order hitter.
What about Pandey, Jadhav and Rayudu?
After losing his place in the ODI set-up and warning the benches in the IT20 series thanks to an insipid IPL campaign, Manish Pandey finds himself back in the fray after a sumptuous India A Quadrangular series.
Pandey averages 97.75 in his last ten innings in List A games.
Pandey scored 306 runs in four games including two fifties and a hundred without getting dismissed and he’ll be eyeing the Asia Cup to put up strong performances if he gets the opportunity and put an end to India’s middle-order conundrum.
Ambati Rayudu was originally selected for India’s ODI squad against England before he failed the yo-yo test. He cleared the test prior to the Quadrangular series and made another strong case for himself in the white-ball set-up. In four games, Rayudu scored 187 runs at an average of 62.33 including two fifties.
And finally, Kedar Jadhav. After Suresh Raina’s dismal return to the ODI set-up, a fit-again (hamstring string injury in the first match of the 2018 IPL) Kedar Jadhav should make his way back into the ODI side. An average touching 40 and a more than unusual action that can regularly give Kohli seven-eight overs, it’ hard for India to ignore.
Fit-again Bhuvi set for a return?
After weeks of intense rehabilitation following the back injury that had ruled him out of the first three Tests of the England series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar made a return to competitive cricket with an impressive return of 3-33 against South Africa A with no discernable concern.
With the BCCI acknowledging for the need of managing the workload of their premier fast bowlers and with a busy season (bilateral series against WI, AUS, NZ) and a gruelling tour Down Under looming at the end of the ear, it remains to be seen if Bhuvneshwar is rushed back into the squad or will India try the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Kaul, Thakur or maybe Prasidh Krishna, who had a good outing in the Quadrangular series.