After two long years of a triumphant test run and registering a few historic test wins along the way, the Indian Cricket Team has finally claimed its well-deserved seat in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship(2019-21). India will meet the Blackcaps for a showdown at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton. It will take place from June 18 to 22 later this year. Coincidentally, the Asia Cup 2021 happens to fall around the same time of the year.
Since the tournament final is of the utmost importance, considering the injuries and grind the team has gone through in the last couple of years, BCCI will be looking forward to landing their best XI against Kiwis. Meaning, all the chief Indian players will be unavailable for the Asia Cup 2021, scheduled to be held around the same time of the year.
With the T20 World Cup impending, the BCCI is most likely to go ahead with the Asia Cup as scheduled and land a second-string Indian side to compete against the strongest of the Sub-Continent. So, let’s take a look at what can be the best possible stand-in XI for India in Asia Cup.
The most probable second-string Indian XI for Asia Cup 2021 :
1. KL Rahul (c/wk):
Following the recent success of Rishabh Pant in test cricket and keeping in mind the wicketkeeping skills of Whriddiman Saha, KL Rahul is most likely to be the skipper of the inexperienced T20 side. Considering he aced the job in New Zealand last year, he becomes the frontrunner for it. He’ll most likely be donning the gloves behind the stumps as well, as he is the only Wicket-Keeper with the required skill set and experience.
2. Mayank Agarwal:
The first names that surface to replace Rohit Sharma as an opener for India in T20Is are Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal. But, considering Dhawan’s form, Mayank Agarwal becomes the obvious choice for the role. Now, one can argue that Devdutt Padikkal might get a shot. Maybe, but his performance in the IPL 2021 will play a decisive role for him to replace Agarwal into the playing XI.
3. Surya Kumar Yadav:
There are not many Indian players who can act as a replacement for Virat Kohli and, SKY is probably the sole contender at the moment. He has proved himself at number 3 and had a successful run, batting at that position for Mumbai Indians in the last iteration of the Indian Premier League.
4. Shreyas Iyer (vc):
There is no doubt that Shreyas Iyer will retain his position at number 4 in the team. He has proved himself to be the best at that position. He will most certainly be the vice-captain of the side and maybe seen captaining the side if KL Rahul gets injured.
5. Hardik Pandya/ Manish Pandey:
Hardik Pandya will be the first choice at number 5 but he might get a team India call-up for the Test Championship final. He has been bowling in the nets, ahead of the first T20I against England. And, Considering the pace friendly conditions of England, there might be a chance for him to be picked. India might need him as a back-up batsman in case of a concussion as well. If that happens, Manish Pandey will surely be the one to replace him in the XI.
6. Ishan Kishan:
Ishan Kishan brings the required firepower in the lower middle order of the Indian side. He can switch his game from attacking to defensive depending on the situation. He can also act as a wicketkeeping option for KL Rahul. This makes him a perfect fit at number 6.
7. Axar Patel:
Following Jadeja’s return from injury, it is unlikely that Axar Patel to be picked for the Test Championship final. With concerns over Rahul Tewatia’s fitness, Axar Patel might get a chance. His wide arm angle paired with Chahal’s leg-spin can do wonders for India.
8. Shardul Thakur:
Who wouldn’t pick Shardul Thakur after his recent match-winning performances with the bat in the series against Australia and the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021? A good bowler who can smack sixes batting at number 8 is all that a T20I squad can demand.
9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar:
With Ishant, Bumrah, Shami, and Siraj being the frontline quicks for the Test Championship final, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s experience, along with his death and powerplay bowling skills, might come in handy. He will have the responsibility of leading Indian pacers throughout the tournament.
10. Yuzvendra Chahal:
Chahal will most certainly retain his place as India’s lead spinner. He is a consistent performer with the white ball. Considering all those performances, a match-winner like him is exactly what India needs to turn a game around.
11. T Natarajan:
Coming from performing well in IPL 2020 to nailing those yorkers against Australia in Australia, Natrajan has come a long way. He cannot be ignored by selectors in T2OIs anymore. He might be soaring with confidence this time and might perform even better than what he did on the batting-friendly pitches of Australia.