'That's a no no': Shastri's steely verdict on why Team India star shouldn't be in Playing Eleven for Asia Cup opener vs Pakistan
Team India is gearing up for its eagerly anticipated comeback to One-Day International (ODI) play in the forthcoming Asia Cup, which begins on September 2 with an electric clash against archrivals Pakistan.
However, amid the excitement and anticipation, a cloud of doubt hangs over the availability of key batsmen KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer due to their ongoing injury problems.
The duo has been out of action for quite some time; while Iyer hasn't played a professional match since March earlier this year, Rahul has been out with a hamstring ailment since the 2023 Indian Premier League.
Both cricketers have established themselves as first-choice players throughout the years, adding dynamism and depth to India's team.
However, their extended absence from professional cricket due to their different ailments raises serious concerns about their ability to seamlessly return to the fray.
Particularly noteworthy is the situation of KL Rahul, the team's current first-choice wicketkeeper-batter.
In Rahul's absence, Ishan Kishan delivered solid performances in India's ODI series against the West Indies, hitting half-centuries in all three games.
Former Indian cricket team head coach Ravi Shastri believes Rahul's return may not ensure an automatic spot in the playing XI.
Shastri's statement emphasises the necessity of assessing each player's current form and match fitness, especially in high-stakes tournaments like the Asia Cup.
"See when you're discussing a player (KL Rahul) who hasn't played and is recovering from an injury. To imagine him in the Asia Cup starting XI is asking a little too much of the player.
Then you start talking about keeping. When a person comes back from an injury, the range of motion and things like that are a no-no," Shastri stated on Star Sports.
Batting order reshuffle?
It is worth noting that the recent batting order shift against the West Indies piqued many people's interest in the playing XI dynamics. KL Ishan Kishan, the team's second-choice wicketkeeper, took on the role of an opener throughout all three matches, replacing Rahul, who was normally slotted at the key No. 5 spot in the batting lineup.
While this tactical manoeuvre was successful, it created uncertainty about whether Rahul would effortlessly return his regular place or if Ishan would have to adapt to a different batting berth down the order.
With Rohit Sharma returning to the squad for the Asia Cup – he batted at no. 7 and rested in two ODIs during the West Indies series – it seems unlikely that Ishan will take over as opener when the first-choice players return.