Tilak Varma could be the X-factor in ODI WC, feels Ashwin

Former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad agrees

[File] Tilak Varma plays a shot against West Indies during their first T20 cricket match at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba | AP [File] Tilak Varma plays a shot against West Indies during their first T20 cricket match at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba | AP

Premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has urged the the national selectors and team management to show faith in a talent like Tilak Varma and include the left-hander 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. 

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.

"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. 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," Ashwin said on his YouTube channel.

With star batters KL Rahul (thigh surgery) and Iyer (lower back surgery) are running against time to get fit for the 50-over showpiece starting October 5, neither of the two back-up options Suryakumar Yadav and Samson has inspired confidence of the highest order as the conundrum with regards to the No. 4 slot continues. 

While Surya 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 most of the top countries won't have quality finger spinners who can trouble a rookie.  

"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.

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