The decision to include Tilak Varma in the Asia Cup squad may appear bold since he's yet to feature in an ODI. But the selectors preferred to focus on his current form and the momentum with which he has been operating.
Also, he could be that much-needed cushion for the Indian middle order, where some amount of volatility continues to exist over the No.4 slot.
"The momentum of a young player is very important. One can sense the flow in Tilak's batting at present.
"So, the selectors felt this was the right time to draft him into the squad, considering his rhythm," a BCCI source told The Telegraph on Monday, hours after the announcement of the 17-man squad for the Asia Cup beginning on August 30. India start their campaign on September 2, against Pakistan in Pallekele.
The IPL showed the 20-year-old left-handed batsman has a lot of promise. Varma then proved he has the ability to clear the examination the India jersey comes up with.
Two successful seasons for Mumbai Indians — where he averaged 36.09 (in 2022) and 42.88 (this year), striking at 131.02 and 164.11, respectively — alongside captain Rohit Sharma's praise were pivotal in earning Varma his maiden national team call-up for India's recent T20I series against the West Indies.
The youngster grabbed that opportunity with both hands and turned out to be India's highest run-getter (173) in the five-match series with an average of 57.66 and a strike rate in excess of 140. Precisely, his judicious stroke-making, ability to find the gaps, calmness and overall spontaneity stood out in the Caribbean, where the pitches seemed a far cry from batting belters and were a tad tricky rather on most occasions.
With an element of doubt still hovering over the match-fitness of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, who are both back in the squad, it wouldn't be unwise to tip Varma as the No.4 in the line-up, feels former national selector Devang Gandhi.
"The first impression matters a lot, and Tilak succeeded in this aspect with his performance in the West Indies," Devang emphasised. "Looking at his performances, one can only say he should be quite useful in the middle order and provides it with some much-needed cushion.
"For instance, if any one among Shreyas or Rahul isn't match-fit in any of the Asia Cup games, slotting Tilak at No.4 won't be a bad idea at all."
Besides, with Suryakumar Yadav yet to be effective in ODIs, trying Varma in the middle order would be a fair call. Make no mistake, his List A numbers (1,236 runs in 25 matches, averaging 56.18 and striking at 101.64) too are impressive.