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ODI World Cup: Ashwin, Prasad picks youngster as India's potential X-factor

Source: PTI
Last updated on: August 09, 2023 23:27 IST
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IMAGE: Though he’s just donned the international jersey, Tilak Varma could be an option for India’s World Cup squad, believes off-spinner R Ashwin. Photograph: BCCI/Twitter

Premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has urged the national selectors and team management to show faith in talented Tilak Varma and include him in the World Cup squad as he could possibly be the answer to India's middle-order woes with multiple batters still recovering from injuries.

There is a strong buzz that in case Shreyas Iyer doesn't recover before the Asia Cup, the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee could pull Varma out of Asian Games squad and get him ready for the World Cup by playing him in the continental event beginning August 30.


Ashwin's comments were also backed by former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad, who wouldn't mind seeing Varma in the final 15, provided Shreyas Iyer fails to make the cut.

The 20-year-old stylish Hyderabad left-hander has impressed one and all with scores of 39, 50 and 49 not out in three T20I games in the West Indies and not for once looked out of place at the international level.

IMAGE: Following the first three games of the five-match T20I series, Tilak Varma has scored 30+ scores in all three matches. Photograph: BCCI/Twitter

"This is neck-and-neck with respect to the World Cup. So, will they think about Tilak Varma as an option if we don't have enough backups? Because Sanju Samson has performed really well in ODIs," Ashwin said on his YouTube channel.

"But the exciting part about Tilak Varma is that he is a left-hander and Team India is lacking left-handers. Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) is the only left-handed batter in the top 7."

With star batters KL Rahul (thigh surgery) and Iyer (lower back surgery) running against time to get fit for the 50-over showpiece starting October 5, the two back-up options, Suryakumar Yadav and Samson have not inspired confidence of the highest order as the conundrum with regards to the No. 4 slot continues.

While Suryakumar enjoys the team management's confidence and will make it as an extra middle-order option in the squad, Samson has wasted way too many opportunities and if Rahul is fit, then certainly Ishan Kishan will be the second keeper-cum-reserve opener.

Ashwin gave his rationale behind picking Varma as he feels the top cricket playing nations won't have quality finger spinners who can trouble a rookie.

IMAGE: Former selector MS Prasad too backed Tilak Varma. Photograph: Mufaddal Vohra/Twitter

"And look at the spinners from all the top teams. Australia have Ashton Agar. England have Moeen Ali and a leggie in Adil Rashid. So, most teams don't have a finger spinner to challenge the left-handed batters. That is why the emergence of Tilak is crucial."

Ashwin knows that it could be difficult to fast-track Varma but there is no harm in giving him a chance, especially after his ongoing exploits in the Caribbean.

"It is still early but will they see him as an option? He has at least made everyone notice him. He is surely in the contingency plan. Because any selector who would have seen that knock would have gone, 'Woah!'" he said.

Prasad, who was the head of the selection panel during the last ODI World Cup, feels that someone like Varma is an equally capable ODI player.

"Look at his List A record for Hyderabad. He has played 25 List A games and has an average of 55 plus (56.18). Five hundreds and five half-centuries. It means at least 50 per cent times he is converting fifties into hundreds. A strike rate of 100 plus," Prasad told PTI.

"I think it won't be a bad idea provided Shreyas (Iyer) can't make it. Only then you can think of Varma. But I am sure he will be a white ball regular for India across formats going forward," the former India stumper added.

Former India Test opener Jaffer, who has seen Varma's exploits for Mumbai Indians while sitting in the Punjab Kings dug-out, has never seen any young batter look "so assured in his first three innings."

Talking to ESPNCricinfo, Jaffer admitted that definitely time is of essence since only nine games are left before the World Cup starts.

"Ideally, you would want a player to get 15 to 20 games. We expected Shreyas and KL to be ready for Asia Cup but we are reading they won't be ready for Asia Cup and we don't know if they would be available for Australia ODIs as we don't know how serious are those injuries.

"If you want to try a guy, why not Tilak Varma? No matter whoever plays, he would be under-cooked, so why not Tilak Varma? I would take a bet on him," Jaffer said.

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