New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) It is not a bad thing to aim for a new prize in cricket, especially when T20 leagues are mushrooming all over the world.
But what if that prize in cricket fetches a team either gold, silver or bronze medal, place in the podium, chance to sing the national anthem aloud and register yourself in history books?
It sounds as a very tantalising prospect, for sure. From September 19 to October 8, India’s men’s and women’s cricket teams will have a captivating prospect of adding an Asian Games medal to its list of laurels, when the T20 matches, granted an international status, will be played at the Zhejiang University of Technology Pingfeng Cricket Field in Hangzhou, China.
Both men’s and women’s teams will be entering the Asian Games cricket competition from the quarterfinal stage. With the men’s ODI World Cup starting in India from October 5, the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and others won’t be a part of the Asian Games event.
But the men's India team for the Asian Games has a lot of proven performers from the T20s as well as the IPL circuit. Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has made a name for himself as a Chennai Super Kings mainstay, will captain the Indian team at the Asian Games.
Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who hit a magnificent 171 on Test debut against the West Indies at Dominica, is included in the side alongside Shivam Dube, Tilak Varma, Ravi Bishnoi, Shahbaz Ahmed, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Prabhsimran Singh, Washington Sundar and Rahul Tripathi.
Yash Thakur, R. Sai Kishore, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Hooda and B. Sai Sudharsan are the stand-by players for the Indian team in the Asian Games. It also marks the first time that India will be participating in the men’s T20 cricket event in the Asian Games after not taking part in 2010 and 2014 editions.
Bangladesh won the gold at Guangzhou in 2010, while Sri Lanka took the top medal at Incheon in 2014, with Afghanistan being runners-up on both occasions.
The last time an Indian men’s team participated in a multi-sporting event was in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, where the games were given a List A status.
Now, Gaikwad & Co will have the chance to embrace a brand-new experience of being in a multi-sport event. As Gaikwad stated after the Asian Games squad announcement, his team’s aim will be to bring a gold home, stand on the podium and sing the national anthem.
"I think it will be really exciting for everyone who are a part of this squad to represent the country in the Asian Games. Obviously, winning medals for the country is something we always grew up watching on TV. The opportunity to win a medal out there will be really special," he said.
Moreover, it’s also been a decade since India won a big men’s international tournament, and that could be a motivation for Gaikwad & Co to go all the way for gold and add something to a barren trophy cabinet.
The talent and skillsets of the team are breath-taking, with many of them impressing in T20Is against Sri Lanka, New Zealand, the West Indies and Ireland, apart from the IPL.
Expect them to face usual tough challenge from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who also have good emerging talents.
As compared to their men’s counterpart, the women’s team knows the feeling of being on the podium, participating in the multi-sport event and having a medal around their neck.
The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side won the silver in the debut of women’s T20 event at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year after losing to Australia in a thrilling final.
But for the first two matches, Harmanpreet will be unavailable due to a two-match international ban for her livid on-field outburst in the tied ODI against Bangladesh in Dhaka. In her absence, Smriti Mandhana is expected to lead the team.
Other notable vital cogs in the wheel for Indian will be Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma and Richa Ghosh, who was dropped from the Bangladesh tour, among others, with no word on the reason behind the absence of Renuka Singh Thakur.
Pace all-rounder Titas Sadhu, the player of the final in the U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup triumph this year, and Kanika Ahuja, who did well as a finisher for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in WPL this year, are the newbies.
Interestingly, the Indian women’s team hasn’t got a full-time head coach or support staff yet, despite inviting applications for the same. It means that the women’s team will have to make up with interim people in the support staff in what will be their another attempt in overcoming the Birmingham CWG heartbreak.
That though, is easier said than done. Pakistan, the two-time Asian Games gold medal winners, defeated 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup runners-up South Africa 3-0 at home.
Sri Lanka registered an astonishing 2-1 series win over England away from home. Moreover, Bangladesh managed to give India lots of trouble in July.
While these three medal contenders were getting ample game time, there was nothing on that front for the Indian team after the tour of Bangladesh that ended in July.
Harmanpreet, Smriti, Jemimah and Richa were there at The Hundred in England, while the rest were honing their skills or attending pre-season camps organised by their WPL teams.
As the Asian Games come nearer, both the men’s and women’s teams will be expected to deliver the results expected from them. With lots of quality present, undoubtedly the results have to come in the multi-sporting event.
While the men’s team look to be prime contenders for the yellow metal, the women’s side will have to overcome many odds against them, including stiff competitors and less-than-ideal build-up, to go for gold.
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