Asia Cup: Focus on Kohli workload, middle-order slots

India skipper Virat Kohli’s workload will be in focus along with the middle-order slots when the national selection committee picks the squad for the Asia Cup cricket tournament.

The selectors will be cautious while monitoring Kohli’s workload. (File Photo)   -  Getty Images

Workload management and a wobbly middle-order will be the key points to ponder for the national selection panel as it sits down on Saturday to finalise India's squad for the Asia Cup, to be played in the United Arab Emirates from September 15 to 28.

With India set to feature in the six-team tournament immediately after the conclusion of a ten-week tour to the United Kingdom, the five-member selection panel will have to take a call on whether to rest all-format regulars and injury-prone players during the Asia Cup or the following home series against the West Indies.

Virat Kohli, who has been managing a back injury since the start of the year, and the pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah, who missed the first two Tests in England due to a thumb injury, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has returned to competitive cricket after returning from England after the limited overs' leg, form the injury-prone players' chunk whose participation in the continental 50-over tournament will hang in balance.

Read: In-form Manish Pandey makes strong case for Asia Cup selection

Besides, openers K.L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan have also spent almost three months in England along with wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik. While Karthik isn't a natural choice in ODIs, the selectors will have to decide on rotating Rahul and Dhawan, with Rohit Sharma being a permanent fixture at the top.

The opinion of the team management will hold the key to whether a full-strength squad features in the Asia Cup to the delight of the broadcaster. With the penultimate Test match being played in Southampton, chief selector MSK Prasad was expected to discuss the selection issues with captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri late on Friday night.

The timing of the break for the regulars ahead of a rigorous season in the build-up to the next year's World Cup would have been firmed up by the time Prasad sits down at the BCCI headquarters along with his colleagues come Saturday.

With an eye on the World Cup, the selectors will also have plenty to worry about the two open slots in the middle-order. In the recent past, the selectors and the team management have played musical chairs with the No. 4 and 5 spot, with multiple players staking a claim but none having sealed either of spots.

Just when Kedar Jadhav appeared to have grabbed one of the places, his injury during the Indian Premier League brought Ambati Rayudu back in the mix in England. However, Rayudu's inability to clear the fitness test meant Suresh Raina returned to the mix, with Shreyas Iyer serving drinks and Manish Pandey being a scapegoat.

Since then, Jadhav has recovered after a prolonged rehab, Rayudu has cleared the yo-yo test, Iyer is consistent with the bat and Pandey has sizzled for India A.

It may give an indication that the selectors will enjoy a problem of plenty while finalising the middle-order slots. But Prasad and Co. will also be hoping for the selected duo to justify their selection as India get into the final phase of preparation for the next year's quadrennial extravaganza.