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KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer in match simulation training ahead of Asia Cup squad selection

This process is seen as the final steps in their road back from injury to the Indian team; Asia Cup squad likely to be out by August 20

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
KL Rahul is making his way back from a thigh injury  •  NurPhoto via Getty Images

KL Rahul is making his way back from a thigh injury  •  NurPhoto via Getty Images

As the final steps in their road back from injury to the Indian team, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are now taking part in match simulations at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. This process will culminate in a couple of practice games for them, as they make their way back from a thigh (Rahul) and back (Iyer) injury.
Rahul and Iyer are expected to take part in this training all through this week, which will give the national selectors clarity on how they are shaping up in a match environment before they sit down to pick India's Asia Cup squad, which is expected to be out by August 20.
"We have a few guys coming back from injuries in any case," head coach Rahul Dravid had said in Florida after the fifth and final T20I against West Indies on Sunday. "We are going to have to give them opportunities to play [in the Asia Cup]. I haven't really thought about the Asia Cup at this stage. We have a one-week camp in Bengaluru from August 23. We'll be assembling there as a one-day team. We will take it as it comes."
Late last month, the BCCI issued a media statement confirming Iyer and Rahul's return to batting in the nets and fitness drills. ESPNcricinfo understands the delay in Asia Cup squad announcement is to give selectors more of a chance to assess the duo, and give them the best chance to feature in the tournament which in many ways is a dry run for the World Cup in October-November.
India's Asia Cup contingent and reserves will undergo a week-long conditioning camp in Bengaluru from August 23-29 prior to leaving for Sri Lanka for the tournament, where India will open their campaign on September 2 against Pakistan.

Asia Cup squad = World Cup squad?

The selectors are keen on the Asia Cup being an unofficial hard stop as far as team selection for the World Cup goes, but it's likely there could be an exception or two made, given India also play Australia in three ODIs prior to the World Cup campaign. As things stand, the BCCI must announce a preliminary World Cup squad by September 5, but can make changes to the squad as late as September 27, the day of the third and final ODI against Australia.
Rahul and Iyer are among four players who are in line for comebacks. The other two, Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna, are part of the Ireland tour party for the three T20Is from August 18-23.
If fully fit, Rahul is India's first-choice wicketkeeper in ODIs and will likely slot into the middle order along with Iyer, who has a formidable record at No. 4. In Iyer's absence, the selectors have experimented with a number of options, including Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson and Axar Patel during the recently concluded ODI series in the Caribbean.
Iyer hasn't played any competitive cricket since the fourth Border-Gavaskar Test against Australia this March. He underwent a back surgery in London subsequently, which forced him to miss the entire IPL season. He was in line to return for the Ireland T20Is, but this had been pushed back after the NCA staff felt he needed a longer rehabilitation window.
Rahul, meanwhile, pulled up towards the end stages of IPL 2023, when he tore a tendon in his right thigh while fielding. Like Iyer, Rahul too underwent surgery in the UK and has been in rehab at the NCA for the past two months.

Prasidh Krishna, Jasprit Bumrah all set for Ireland gig

Prasidh and Bumrah had been had been put through similar match simulation exercises by the NCA staff late last month as their final lap of preparation before the squad selection for Ireland. On Sunday, Prasidh played for Mysuru Warriors in the Maharaja T20 Cup, his first top-level game in almost a year.
Both players have now linked up with the squad leaving for Ireland.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo