Asia Cup is not fitness test for India ahead of World Cup, says Rohit Sharma

Written by Vishwas Gupta

India captain Rohit Sharma made the team’s intentions clear for Asia Cup 2023, laughing at a question about whether the former champions would treat the continental tournament as a “final fitness test” before the World Cup at home. Speaking to the press on the eve of the much-anticipated India vs Pakistan clash Friday in Pallekele, Rohit Sharma talked up the importance of the tournament and its rich history.

India are one of the favourites to go all the way in Asia Cup 2023 but their preparations for the continental tournament have been dominated by uncertainty over players’ availability due to injuries.

“By no means, this is a fitness test or any other thing. This is a tournament played between top 6 Asian teams. It’s a very big tournament for all of us, without a doubt. In the past, it has had so much history. So yeah, the fitness test and the fitness camp and all that was done in Bengaluru. Now, we have to move ahead and get out game face on and see what we can achieve in this tournament,” Rohit said in Pallekela on Friday.

Head coach Rahul Dravid had highlighted before India’s departure to Sri Lanka that they had an idea of a World Cup-bound middle-order around 18 months ago but injuries to key players, including KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, created problems.

India have traveled to Sri Lanka without KL Rahul, who will miss the first two matches of the tournament. Rahul picked up a fresh niggle during his rehabilitation process from a thigh injury at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Rahul was part of India’s 6-day training camp in Alur but head coach Rahul Dravid said the wicketkeeper-batter needed more time to completely recover and be ready for ODI cricket.

On the other hand, Shreyas Iyer, who recovered from a back injury, will be back in the side for the first time since March. Iyer has not played any competitive fixture since the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and missed the IPL, but the Kolkata Knight Riders captain is set to take his place in the XI against Pakistan.

India also will be cautious about the way they use Jasprit Bumrah as the star pacer returned to action in Ireland last month after spending close to 11 months on the sidelines due to injury. Prasidh Krishna, who is in the 17-man squad, also returned to international cricket after a year’s break in Ireland.

Rohit talked up the quality of pace-bowling in both their camps and said that he hopes the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj stay fit and deliver for the team in the next 2 months.

“All 6 bowlers are great bowlers, they have proven in world cricket how good they are.

“Speaking of Shami, Siraj and Bumrah… especially Bumrah who is coming back from an injury after a long time. He played in Ireland, he looked good there. And then the small camp we had in Bengaluru, he looked good as well. Yes, he is looking in good spirits and that’s a good sign for us.

“So are Shami and Siraj. They have been doing the job for us in the past few years now. It’s a positive sign for us. So hopefully, they can keep themselves fresh throughout the next two months,” Rohit added.

India are yet to announce their provisional World Cup squad. The Asian giants are expected to name their 15 on Sunday, September 3.

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Vishwas Gupta