The Indian Cricket Team held their nerves to scamper to their seventh Asia Cup title after they defeated Bangladesh in the last ball of the final encounter. Though Pakistan were touted as the team to beat before the tournament started, the Indians displayed a professional performance in all the departments to further enhance their reputation as a world-class unit. The Indian squad returns from the UAE with plenty of positives, though a few issues linger on.
A thorough captain in Rohit Sharma
In the absence of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma was once again handed over the reigns of the Indian team. After a tremendous outing as a skipper in the IPL, experts all over were curious to figure out if the Mumbaikar could carry over his fine captaincy skills into the international level as well. With 7 wins in 8 ODIs with Rohit as the leader of the side, including two multi-national trophy wins – the T20 Nidahas Trophy earlier in the year and the Asia Cup – the opener has ensured that the team is in safe hands when Kohli decides to give his body some rest. With shrewd field placements and bowling changes, Rohit is hardly seen as a flustered individual while leading the team and often has answers to the questions that the rivals throw up towards him.
The opening duo take away all the pressure
It is no secret that the Indian side has been a top-heavy unit for the last few years. Along with Kohli as well, the top three have contributed 8077 runs in the last three years, with Kohli averaging a whopping 90.45 in the top three in the last 36 months. With Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli all possessing a strike-rate of more than 96, the trio ensures that the Indian innings is often off to a rollicking start. In the ongoing Asia Cup too, the pair of Dhawan and Rohit took on the responsibility in the absence of Kohli, amassing 342 runs with two hundreds and two 40+ scores and 317 runs with one hundred and two fifties, respectively. The consistent runs and the ability to take off the pressure in the powerplay overs are welcome signs for Indian cricket, and if they continue with this dominant show, they could prove to be the fulcrum upon which the Indian team hinges upon in the World Cup.
No answers yet for the iffy middle order
Like England’s opening woes in Test cricket, the conundrum for the number 4 batsman in the Indian ODI team has been a matter of much debate. With Kohli taking some well-deserved rest, the opportunity was ideal for players like KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik to stamp a mark. However, the tournament ended with as many, if not more queries – who is the best-suited player to stabilize the middle order and carry forward the good work of the Indian openers? KL Rahul has been viewed as an opener by the management and is hardly likely to fit into an anchor’s role at 4. Pandey and Karthik have received innumerable chances but inconsistencies and the inability to handle pressure has been their nemesis on more occasions than one. Rayudu is yet to play overseas after his rise in the IPL, and even though he did play some crucial knocks in the Asia Cup, it is imperative to see how he performs in the subsequent tour to Australia before finalizing his name at 4.
A huge cloud of doubt also lingers over the role of Dhoni in the ODI side. He seems a misfit at 5, often taking up 7-8 overs before he gets going. In the final, he made 36 off 67 deliveries, and was at 4 off 18 deliveries at one point of time. Before he came out to bat, the duo of Karthik and Rohit had played cleverly, picking up quick singles and sending away the bad balls to the boundary without any extra hazards. But the arrival of Dhoni massively slowed down the momentum and with Karthik expecting the former skipper to blaze away soon, he too remained cocooned in his shell instead of playing his natural shots. It has been suggested that Dhoni is pushed up at 4, which might seem the best spot for him, but the only threat that comes along with it is that often he might 5remendously slow down the pace of the innings after the top-order batsmen have laid the foundation. By undoing the good work that is in place, Dhoni could prove to be a liability and it is one of the biggest concerns going forward.
A perfect combination of seamers and spinners
Since the arrival of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the middle overs of an ODI has picked up the pace as well. With tight bowling and constant wickets, the spin masters have ensured that India has the skills to torment the rivals after the seamers are taken out of the attack. Something similar panned out in the final as well, where Bangladesh had done well to navigate through the threat of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to race away to 120 for no loss in 20.4 overs. However, the introduction of Kuldeep wreaked havoc as he romped away with 3 wickets to leave Bangladesh reeling. Chahal too acts as a perfect foil to Kuldeep, and along with Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav, the middle overs are often the toughest to get away from.
In Bumrah, who has the best economy rate for bowlers who have bowled more than 65 overs this year, and Bhuvi, who is a great example of a successful swing bowler, the Indian bowling unit is compact and effective. Deepak Chahar and Khaleel Ahmed could prove to be dangerous in England next year and with the seam option of Hardik Pandya, the bowling attack has plenty of options.