The ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2023 will begin on Thursday in Sri Lanka. The Indian team will be led by Yash Dhull as it looks to reclaim the title it last won in 2013 - the inaugural edition of the tournament.
India A is grouped with Pakistan A, Nepal and UAE A, against which it will open its campaign on Friday. India will face Pakistan A on July 19 in its last league stage match.
Here are five Indian players to watch out for in the tournament:
B. SAI SUDHARSAN
The stylish left-hander from Tamil Nadu has taken the cricketing world by storm of late. His most recent exploits came in the 2023 season of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) - the tournament where his talent was first noticed. He amassed 371 runs in just six games for Lyca Kovai Kings at a blistering strike rate of 172.55 this season. This stupendous run of form came after a precocious 47-ball 96 for Gujarat Titans against Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final.
Sudharsan also impressed on his First-Class debut last year against Hyderabad with scores of 179 and 42, which earned him the Player-of-the-match award. The 21-year-old was picked for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy semifinal earlier this month but managed only 26 runs in two innings. However, Sudharsan will relish returning to 50-over cricket, a format in which he averages a whopping 60.36 and has a record opening partnership of 416 with Tamil Nadu teammate N. Jagadeesan.
YASH DHULL (CAPTAIN)
The 2022 U-19 World Cup-winning captain will lead the country again in what is ostensibly another age-group tournament as all the players in the Indian squad are aged below 23. Dhull’s recent performances don’t do justice to his talent, and he will need to go about setting that right. His meagre returns of 16 runs in four matches in IPL 2023 for Delhi Capitals came on the back of a fruitful Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2022-23 campaign, where he was the leading run-getter with 363 runs in eight games at a strike rate of 131.52.
However, his performance waned gradually over the course of the domestic season. In the subsequent Vijay Hazare Trophy, the Delhi batter scored a middling 191 runs at an average of 38.2 and followed it up with a disastrous Ranji Trophy campaign, averaging just 27 in six matches while captaining his side. Dhull will look to take inspiration from his debut First-Class season in the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy, where he struck twin hundreds in his first match and ended as Delhi’s top run-scorer by a distance, as he dons Indian colours again.
Hailing from the 2020 U-19 World Cup batch, Jurel will hope to follow in the footsteps of his batchmates Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ravi Bishnoi – who have already donned the India cap. His impactful knocks under pressure for Rajasthan Royals in his debut IPL season indicate that a national cap may not be a bridge too far for the 22-year-old. In his debut IPL game, Jurel almost pulled off a sensational chase with an unbeaten 15-ball 32 against Punjab Kings as Royals fell short by just five runs. The Uttar Pradesh batter, however, had the last laugh as he took his side home in yet another thrilling finish against Kings with a six when the equation had come down to a nervy five off three balls.
He played a match-winning cameo of 34 off 15 against eventual champion CSK and an unbeaten 16-ball 34 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in yet another narrow defeat for Royals. Jurel’s strike rate of 172.73 in the season stood out and compensated for the middle-order torpor that the Royals often suffered from.
While Jurel is yet to play a 50-over game in his career, his Ranji Trophy 2022-23 numbers show he can play the long innings. He was Uttar Pradesh’s second highest scorer with 429 runs at an average of 71.5.
ABHISHEK SHARMA (VICE-CAPTAIN)
The 22-year-old will be Dhull’s deputy in the tournament and comes equipped with leadership skills, having led India to the U-19 Asia Cup title. He was also a part of the 2018 U-19 World Cup-winning team under captain Prithvi Shaw. Abhishek has been on the Indian domestic circuit since 2017 but hasn’t come close to an India cap while his U-19 World Cup teammates Shaw and Shubman Gill have gone on to prove themselves at the international level.
The all-rounder, however, is well suited to the 50-over format and will be keen to grab this opportunity with both hands. He was Punjab’s top run-scorer and leading wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2022-23 season, scoring 302 runs at an average of 43.14 and picking 12 wickets at under four runs an over.
The Punjab-born cricketer proved his mettle in IPL 2022, after playing just 22 games in the previous four seasons. He scored 426 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad at a strike rate of 133.13 and managed to up his scoring rate in IPL 2023, where he struck at an impressive 143.95 for his 226 runs. With his ability to open the batting and bowl economical spells with his quick left-arm spin, Abhishek will be a huge asset for Dhull’s men.
The 21-year-old’s recent exploits indicate that Rana’s contribution to the team won’t be limited to his primary skillset of fast bowling. Coming in to bat at No. 9, Rana hammered a 75-ball century for North Zone against Northeast in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal last month. He followed it up with quickfire contributions of 31 and 38 in the semifinal against South Zone while also picking five wickets in the match.
In his debut First-Class season (Ranji Trophy 2022-23), Rana was Delhi’s highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps at 26.66 and also averaged a handy 30.4 with the bat. Rana made his IPL debut with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2022 and picked five wickets in six games for the franchise in 2023.
With an experience of just nine white-ball games (1 List A and 8 T20s), Rana is yet to find his feet in limited-overs cricket and the upcoming tournament will provide him with the perfect platform to hone his skills with both bat and bowl and deliver on his all-round promise.
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