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India's Tilak Varma in action during the fifth and final T20I match against West Indies at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida, on August 13. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: Young Indian batter Tilak Varma has said he wanted to play ODI cricket but never dreamed that his debut would be in the Asia Cup after being picked in the squad for the continental showpiece event.

Tilak showed his immense promise when amassing 343 runs for the Mumbai Indians at the IPL earlier this year and further built on those efforts by making an outstanding start to his international career during India’s recent white-ball series against the West Indies.

The 20-year-old appeared in all five T20I matches India contested, scoring 173 runs in his first international series. His form against the West Indies was rewarded with the youngster earning a place in India’s squad for the upcoming Asia Cup.

He has never played ODI cricket but could make his debut in the format at the 2023 Asia Cup, starting from August 30.

In a video shared by the BCCI, Tilak spoke about his Asia Cup selection and also conveyed his heartfelt appreciation to captain Rohit Sharma for his unwavering assistance and mentorship

“I never dreamed that I would be debuting directly in the Asia Cup, and that too in the one-day side. I was always dreaming that I would be debuting for India in ODIs. But it is a big thing for me. And I always dreamed of this, like debuting for India in ODIs, that too, in like, a single year, I got my T20I debut and suddenly, in the next month, I’m just getting a call for the Asia Cup. So yeah, it is one of my dreams and I’m just preparing for it,” said Tilak.

Rohit's unwavering assistance

He further conveyed his heartfelt appreciation to captain Rohit Sharma for his unwavering assistance and mentorship during the IPL.

“Rohit bhaiya always backed me. When I was playing in the IPL also, he used to come near me. I was a bit nervous when I was in the IPL at the start, so he only himself came near me and talked about the game and said that always enjoy your game and always feel free. Whenever you want to talk, you can come any time for me or text me so I’ll be there for you,” said Tilak.

“I have expressed myself in the IPL and I’m expressing everywhere. Yeah, I always talk with him, So yeah, every time. He said that only one thing to enjoy your game. So that’s what I’m doing. Yeah, I’m very happy that I’m in and I want to do well there as well. I want to enjoy what I’m doing now. I just want to enjoy there as well,” he added.

Smart decision says Moody 

Former Australian all-rounder Tom Moody called Varma’s selection a brave yet smart decision.

“I think it’s a wonderful selection. I’ll call it brave, but I also call it in the same breath smart. He is clearly a player on the rise, as I touched on earlier. He’s got not only skill but an enormous temperament, and he is showing that on a regular basis. We have talked about the value of left-handedness in the top order, so him coming in at that No 5 or 6 positions is going to be valuable for India, particularly to have that balance against spin,” Moody told Star Sports in an exclusive interview.

Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar seconded the decision to have Varma in the squad for Asia Cup. “Yes, because he is in hot form. Look at his domestic career, he’s got the numbers to merit a call for India. And also, tongue in cheek, he is also getting ready for 50 overs cricket by failing in his last two matches in the T20 format. So he is getting ready for 50-over cricket,” Manjrekar said.

“It is hard to find a weakness in him, in white-ball cricket. And as I’ve mentioned before, let’s have some impact, quality players at No 4, 5 and 6. There’s a tremendous rush for spots No 1, 2 and 3, in Indian cricket, let’s have these No 4, 5 and 6 batters out there,” the former Mumbai batter said.

Manjrekar impressed with team selection

Sanjay Manjrekar was very impressed with the clarity of the team selection and how there was reason behind every decision.

“The press conference was a very impressive debut by Ajit Agarkar as chairman of selectors. What I liked is both Rohit and Ajit gave a lot of respect to the people asking the questions. There were a lot of open conversations, no one was scared of trying to reveal something they shouldn’t. The answer about KL Rahul was important. A niggle has emerged along with the injury he recovered from, and that’s why they had an extra keeper. Now that kind of detailed sharing of information is what we need, and I hope they remain candid,” he was quoted as saying in a release by the broadcaster.

Manjrekar felt this was as good as the World Cup squad. “Nice articulation of all the decisions that have been taken. And when you look at the squad, I think this is the World Cup squad that you’re looking at. Two players will be deleted. There is a chance one of the spinners will be deleted and an extra keeper or maybe a fast bowler. But this is more or less the World Cup squad that we are looking at, barring two players that they would have to leave out.”