Asia Cup 2018 September 1, 2018

India rest Virat Kohli for Asia Cup, Rohit Sharma to lead; uncapped Khaleel Ahmed called up

ESPNcricinfo staff

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India have rested their captain Virat Kohli from the Asia Cup, which will be held in the UAE from September 15 to 28. Rohit Sharma will lead the side in his absence, with Shikhar Dhawan named his deputy.

India are currently playing a five-Test series in England, which ends on September 11, four days before the start of the Asia Cup. The Test team will be back in action on October 4 - less than a week after the Asia Cup final - when they begin their first Test against West Indies in Rajkot. Given the tightly packed schedule, and the tour of Australia that will follow the series against West Indies, the selectors have chosen to rest Kohli.

"Considering the workload we've given him rest," MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, said. "He has been playing continuously, yes he's on the road since IPL, that's looking at workload. I've been [to England] for the third Test match, we sat for a discussion regarding workload management, so we need preserve some players who are playing all three formats. Looking at that workload issue we have started with Virat and rested him. Other all-format players will also be rested in due course."

The squad is otherwise at full strength, with the selectors not opting to rest Dhawan, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya and Bumrah, who are all involved in the Test series in England.

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There is one new face in the squad in Khaleel Ahmed, the left-arm seamer from Rajasthan. The 20-year-old has only played two first-class matches, but has more experience in List A and T20 cricket, having played a combined 29 games across the two shorter formats. He was part of the India A limited-overs squad that toured England in June-July, and also played for India A in the recently concluded 50-overs quadrangular series in Bengaluru.

Khaleel has taken 15 wickets in his last nine limited-overs matches for India A, and has not gone wicketless in any of these matches. He had been on the selectors' radar for a while, since they were looking for a left-arm option, and his returns for India A have encouraged them to call him up to the senior side.

Prasad said the selectors had identified most of the squad to take to next year's World Cup in England, apart from two or three slots, of which one was in the pace-bowling group.

"Two to three slots we are yet to finalise, so for those slots we are trying and we'll look at these 24 matches [in the lead-up to the World Cup]. You'll come to know the slots more specifically as we go ahead ... Among those, one of those seamers' slots is open. We are looking at a left-arm option in Khaleel."

The middle-order trio of Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav, are back after missing India's last ODI series in England, as well as for Jasprit Bumrah, who sat out that series to recover from a thumb injury. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has just returned to action after recovering from a back issue, is also part of the squad.

Of those who were part of the ODI squad in England, batsmen Shreyas Iyer and Suresh Raina and fast bowlers Siddarth Kaul and Umesh Yadav have misssed out on selection.

Pandey has forced his way back into the ODI squad with his blistering form in the A team quadrangular series, in which he made 306 runs in four innings without being dismissed. Rayudu was originally in the ODI squad for the England tour, but was left out after failing the yo-yo fitness test. He has since cleared the test, and played in the quadrangular series for India A. Jadhav suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of the IPL season and was ruled out of the rest of the tournament and the England tour. He too returned to action during the quadrangular series.

One player who has been in red-hot form across formats in domestic cricket and for India A is the opener Mayank Agarwal. Prithvi Shaw pipped him to a slot in the Test squad when the selectors left out M Vijay for the fourth and fifth Tests in England. Now, after scoring four hundreds in his last nine List A matches, an ODI spot has eluded him too. Prasad said he was "just a step away".

"Mayank has been fantastic and performing consistently for 10-12 months, he's just a step away, and I'm sure in due course of time he'll get his recognition. He did well in all three formats in domestic cricket and whatever opportunity he's got for India A. We'll definitely look at him when we rest senior cricketers."

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