“On paper, this Indian side inspires confidence and well capable of punching way above their weight. The only major setback is the absence of Kohli and it will be interesting to see how India tackle this”
The 14th edition of the Asia Cup is just around the corner and the anticipation for the same is on a rise. While the primary focus of the Indian side is on ending the England tour on a high by winning the ultimate Test, the Asia Cup is gradually gaining momentum. India announced their 16-man squad for the big league recently and what comes as a surprise to many is that their key batsman Virat Kohli has been rested for the big event. Kohli’s exclusion was on the cards considering the amount of workload the Indian skipper has undergone in the recent times.
England was always going to be his litmus Test, and the elegant batsman has stamped his authority with some style. He is in the form of his life and is India’s most vital cog in the shorter formats; his absence has left a huge gap in the side. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that no batsman can fill his shoes; such is the impact of Kohli. The question is – Can India win the Asia Cup without Kohli?
India are undoubtedly red hot favourites for the title, but one can only afford to underestimate Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh at their own peril. Especially Pakistan, they won the ICC Champions Trophy last year, which was also one of the greatest comebacks in ICC tournament history. They have a dominating side and have played some good cricket in the recent times. Talking about Sri Lanka, under the watchful eyes of Chandika Haturusingha, the budding side has shown enough promise and potential to take on the big guns. And Bangladesh have always been a surprise package.
Talking about the Indian squad, Rohit Sharma has been appointed as the stand-in skipper and has a fair knowledge of leading the side. His captaincy has been effective for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and doesn’t seem to be short of experience or confidence on that front. Despite Kohli’s absence, India does have a formidable batting attack. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are the best openers in contemporary cricket.
In the absence on Kohli, one can expect KL Rahul or Manish Pandey to bat at three. Although the former has had a difficult run in the Test series, but ODI is a different ball game altogether and Rahul has been instrumental against the white ball. Pandey has been in good nick off-late and has been knocking the doors for a very long time now. This is his golden opportunity to sculpt a permanent spot in the line-up. It would be interesting to see how he fares in the big league.
The presence of Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav only provides more stability and reliable options to choose from. The race for no. 3,4,5 is tough and it will be interesting to see who makes it. MS Dhoni will have a crucial role to play in the absence of Kohli and will be a helping hand for Rohit. In Hardik Pandya, India have an explosive all-rounder, who can win games single-handedly on his day. The batting on a whole looks quite balanced and complete, it’s a well-oiled attack.
However, India’s bowling will be the department to watch out for; they have an intimidating attack and there’s hardly any loophole. Their wrist-spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been the talk of the town and have done extremely well in England. They have inflicted immense damage in the middle overs and squeezed the runs completely. In UAE, a lot of India’s fortunes will depend on how these two fares. Axar Patel is also a canny addition in the squad.
India’s pace attack has the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar have been one of the finest bowlers in contemporary cricket and equally effective against the new as well as old ball. They have nicely set the stage for the spinners and accounted for early wickets on a constant basis. With these two into the attack, India have resolved their death over woes. Shardul has been in the squad or a while and has managed to grab opportunities coming his way. Not many have seen Khaleel Ahmed put in the hard yards, and could be the surprise package.
On paper, this Indian side inspire confidence and well capable of punching way above their weight. The only major setback is the absence of Kohli and it will be interesting to see how India tackle this. Their toughest opponent would undoubtedly be Pakistan and India will be looking forward to come out all guns blazing against the arch-rivals. India have the ingredient and potential to win the Asia Cup, but their character as a unit will be tested in the ultimate stages of the tournament when there is humongous pressure.