Asia Cup 2018: Virat Kohli rested, Khaleel Ahmed earns maiden call-up

Rohit Sharma will lead India in Asia Cup, with opening partner Shikhar Dhawan deputising him.

Rohit Sharma previously led India in ODIs during the home series against Sri Lanka in late 2017.   -  K.R. Deepak

India captain Virat Kohli’s workload was one of the biggest issues that the national selectors had in mind when they met here on Saturday to pick the squad for the Asia Cup.

And the five wise men decided to afford the captain a well-earned rest after a hectic tour to England and decided to name Rohit Sharma as the skipper for the tournament. The five-member selection panel, headed by M. S. K. Prasad, chose a 16-member team that’s young but at the same time, experienced.

While the selectors ignored Suresh Raina, who found himself a spot in the squad for England tour after Ambati Rayudu failed the Yo-Yo test, has been omitted again. After a fantastic maiden season with Chennai Super Kings in the 11th season of Indian Premier League (IPL), Rayudu failed to make it to England after flunking the Yo-Yo test. But now that he has cleared the test — which is a must these days — Rayudu has been brought back. With Kohli not a part of the side, the selectors have also named Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav in the squad. Coming back from a long injury lay-over, this will be Kedar’s chance to cement the place in the side.

In the bowling department, the selectors left out Umesh Yadav and brought in young Rajasthan pacer Khaleel Ahmed. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur around, the side looks well-stocked in the pace department. Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel are the three spinners, the latter given yet another chance to prove the mettle in the tournament that begins on September 15 and gets over on September 28 in the UAE.

Read: Focus on Kohli workload, middle-order slots

Prasad admitted that the decision to rest Kohli was taken keeping his workload in mind. The chairman of selectors also revealed that he had a word with the team management before naming the squad. “We have rested him considering the workload. I was there in England for the third test and we spoke about the workload management. We need to preserve some of the players for all three formats. We have started this process, resting Virat for the Asia Cup,” Prasad said.

He, however, did not clarify on whether the same policy will be applicable for other players who feature in all the formats of the game. “Let’s see,” was his reaction.

Earlier this year, Prasad had gone on record, saying that the core team, leading up to the World Cup, will be finalised by the England tour. Now that the side’s England tour is about to end, has the selection committee been able to finalise the group?

“We are almost closing in on the core group of players. Two to three slots are yet to be finalised, and we are looking at it,” Prasad said, adding that it was because of this reason that Khaleel was named in the side.

Despite being a consistent performer in all three formats of the game, Karnataka's Mayank Agarwal was again not considered for selection. But Prasad said that he is ‘just a step away’ from breaking into the national side.

The squad

Rohit Sharma (captain), Shikhar Dhawan (vice-captain), K. L. Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, M. S. Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Khaleel Ahmed.

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