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The South Asian Insider

Will selectors rest Virat, Hardik for Asia Cup?

MUMBAI: Will Virat Kohli play in the Asia Cup or not? This million dollar question will be answered on Saturday when the Indian team will be picked for the continental tournament, which will be held in UAE this time, in the 50-over format from September 15.

Having cracked two hundreds and more than 400 runs during the ongoing Test series against England, Kohli has been in the form of his life. However, the Indian captain has played non-stop cricket in England for the last couple of months since returning to action after a neck injury forced him to cancel a planned stint for Surrey in county cricket. Even in this series, Kohli suffered from a back problem during the Lord’s Test.

Considering that India have more pressing engagements in Australia later this year, the selectors would be tempted to rest the 29-year-old. However, the option of facing off with arch-rivals Pakistan at least twice, and potentially in the final too, may prompt Kohli to play.

“As much as I know Kohli, he’d be willing to play even on one leg,” former Australian batsman Dean Jones had quipped recently, when asked about whether Kohli could give the event a skip.

In fact, apart from Kohli, the MSK Prasad-led senior national selection committee, which meets at the BCCI headquarters today, may also look to rest the likes of all-rounder Hardik Pandya, openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, and pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who has just returned from a hand injury.

“We know that our players have been on the road for a long time, and need some rest. But who gets a break is a question that depends on workload of an individual player, and the fitness reports of the physio,” a source in the BCCI told TOI on the eve of selection for the Asia Cup.

It Kohli sits out, India could be again led by ODI vice-captain Rohit Sharma. If Dhawan and/or Rahul is rested, either Prithvi Shaw or the in-form Mayank Agarwal could receive their maiden ODI callups. Pandya’s replacement could be TN all-rounder Vijay Shankar.

In the middle-order, a man who looks certain to make his ODI comeback is Manish Pandey, who was in sizzling form for India A in the Quadrangular tournament, notching up 306 runs in just four innings, including two fifties and a hundred, without being dismissed even once.

Among the pacers, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar still recovering from injury, Mohammed Siraj and Rajneesh Gurbani can expect to get picked. The spin duties could be shared by Chahal and Kuldeep.