“Tilak Varma hasn’t come in at Sanju Samson’s expense” – Saba Karim
By SMCS - Aug 25, 2023 10:55 am
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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has recently announced the Indian squad for the men’s Asia Cup 2023. The new Ajit Agarkar-led team added the returning duo of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer and they had the flexibility to pick 17 players instead of the usual 15 as well. Meanwhile, Sanju Samson once again failed to be in the main team and was picked as a backup for Rahul but with multiple batting options available. Alongside this, Tilak Varma’s maiden call-up made headlines but he’s yet to play an ODI.

Tilak Varma
Tilak Varma

“Well, it (Tilak Varma’s selection) actually has not come at Sanju Samson’s expense,” former selector Saba Karim told Sportskeeda in a chat. “I think they [needed a] strong middle-order left-hander that is why they have kept him as an option. That’s the way I’m looking at it. And he’s got an excellent list-A career. I think he bats with an average of 56, bats in the middle overs. So I think keeping that in mind, they have kept him in the frame.”

Meanwhile, Ishan Kishan is also in the team and he can also be used as a backup wicketkeeper-batter as well. Moreover, he played at the top of the order with Shubman Gill in all three ODIs against West Indies despite Rohit and Ruturaj Gaikwad being available and he did well too. He also opined on Shardul Thakur’s place in the team. He has claimed 14 wickets at a brilliant average of 16.42 in ODIs in 2023.

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“No he’s a wicketkeeper backup. In case KL is not fit — and they’ll get to know that during the Asia Cup — then Ishan Kishan comes in as a replacement for KL Rahul and then there’s a strong possibility that he may play in the middle order and No. 4 or 5,” Saba Karim opined. “I don’t think they are looking at Shardul Thakur as a backup for Hardik Pandya. Hardik is more of a batting all-rounder but Shardul is a bowling all-rounder. If he gets into the 11 then they can come in either at number seven or number eight, either before or after Jadeja.”

Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan

However, playing four seamers will allow India to give the space to just two spinners – Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Even if they take Axar Patel instead of Thakur on spin-friendly wickets, he offers the same thing as Jadeja as well, and thus less variation in middle overs as well. Meanwhile, Chahal, Ravi Bishnoi, and Washington Sundar were the other options but Chahal hasn’t been at his best in ODIs and Bishnoi doesn’t have much experience in the format as well.

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“Once you have a wrist spinner like Kuldeep Yadav, he kind of fills that space [of an off-spinner because he turns the ball into the right-hander]. In the end, you need attacking spinners in the squad who can bowl in the middle overs and pick wickets. Although we do talk about variation, in the end, a left-arm wrist spinner (Kuldeep) and a left-arm finger spinner (Jadeja) give you enough variation. End of the road is very harsh but I think the game moves on. It’s not only about Shikhar Dhawan. Look at Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, a year back he was part of the side and now we don’t see his name in the squad. So if younger players get in and perform, it’s not easy for the former match-winners to make a come back. This is a very tough reality but I think all cricketers have to go through this,” Saba Karim concluded.

Saba Karim’s playing 11 for India’s Asia Cup 2023:

Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul/Ishan Kishan (WK), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.