In all likelihood, there won’t be any changes to India’s top-order despite the absence of KL Rahul in the group stages of Asia Cup 2023. India will open with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in their Group A opener against Pakistan at Pallekele on Saturday and despite a lot of chatter around Virat Kohli sliding down to No.4 to strengthen the middle-order, he is set to retain his original No.3 spot. Shreyas Iyer, who is returning from an injury break, will bat at the crucial No.4 position.
According to The Indian Express, India captain Rohit Sharma is unwilling to change India’s set top-order which will be the same even in the World Cup and therefore, Rahul’s replacement, keeper Ishan Kishan, will bat in the middle-order, at No.5 to be precise for the Pakistan and Nepal matches.
The debate around India’s batting line-up has been a hot topic of discussion ever since head coach Rahul Dravid confirmed that India’s first-choice keeper and No.5 batter KL Rahul won’t be available for the first two matches of the Asia Cup due to a niggle. The right-hander stayed back at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and a final call on his fitness will be taken before India’s World Cup announcement on September 5.
Why not Samson in place of Kishan in middle-order?
This obviously means Kishan will take the gloves against Pakistan and Nepal and maybe even in the Super 4 stages of the Asia Cup if Rahul is not match-fit. India do have Sanju Samso in the reserves but since they haven’t ruled Rahul out of the tournament, he can’t be considered a part of the main 17-member squad and therefore Kishan is India’s only choice as keeper-batter.
In an ideal situation, a straight swap between Rahul and Kishan should be a no-brainer. But Kishan’s staggering record as an opener and the exact opposite in the middle-order, make matters difficult. The left-hander has an average of 22.75 in the six innings that he has batted in the middle-order. His problems against quality spin-bowling also make his case weak but Rohit, reportedly, is not ready to completely change the batting order for the sake of adjusting one individual, who, in any case, is not an automatic choice in the XI when Rahul is fit.
When India’s Asia Cup squad was announced, Rohit had made it clear that the players in the squad should be prepared to bat anywhere the team management wants them to.
“One thing I want in this team is to make sure everyone is okay to bat anywhere. That’s one thing we need to keep in mind. You need flexibility, guys who can step up at any position. No one should say, ‘I’m good at this position or I’m good at that position’. You want guys to be able to bat anywhere, that’s the message conveyed to every individual. Not now, but over the last three-fours years,” Rohit had said.
This, however, will be a massive opportunity for Kishan to present himself as an option in the middle-order. With a double hundred against Bangladesh last year, he any way cemented his place as backup opener and keeper especially after India decided not to carry on with Shikhar Dhawan. And now, if he can manage to score while batting in an unusual position in a high-pressure tournament like the Asia Cup, it could open new avenues not only for him but also for the Indian team management.