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TEAM INDIA ALL SET FOR ASIA CUP FINALS

Team India is all set for the Asia Cup finals on Sunday after an intense and fulfilling week in Colombo. They will face the home team after Sri Lanka upset the fancied Pakistan side in a virtual semifinal on a thrilling Thursday night. India’s match against Bangladesh had no bearing on who would play the final encounter of the competition and so the team management made 5 changes to their line-up. At the time of writing this, India has been put under some pressure by the Bangladeshi team with a total of 265 on board. The match will serve as a good practice for the final against Lanka.

Looking to the crucial World Cup challenge ahead, India is now in a sweet spot as most of the team’s major concerns have been addressed during the Asia Cup. A reassuring factor for the team is the return to form and fitness for KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah. In addition, Hardik Pandya’s form and Kuldeep Yadav’s revival are also a huge morale-booster for the team not just for the Sunday final but also the upcoming ODI World Cup which is now just 2 weeks away.

After a not-so-great start to their Asia Cup, Team India has had a much-improved campaign. In their very first match against Pakistan, the top order was rocked by Shaheen Shah Afridi and India didn’t manage to bat their entire 50 overs. But in the Super Fours, Indian batsmen dominated the Pakistani pacers and posted a massive total of 356 losing just the openers who both hit classy and aggressive half centuries. Importantly, K.L.Rahul, drafted in the playing 11 because of Iyer’s shaky fitness, hit an unbeaten century and even kept wickets in the second innings.

It was a stellar show by Virat Kohli as well who hit his 47th ODI ton. As India put up a mammoth score on the board, the onus was on the bowlers who hadn’t been at their best till then in the tournament. The first match was rained off and Indian bowlers didn’t get tested on the night but they did against Nepal in their next match and it was a below par bowling performance against them. Against Pakistan, however, it was a brilliant show of fast bowling and then throttling the opposition with spin. Bumrah looked like he was back at his best and Pandya too swung the ball and scalped the critical wicket of opposition skipper, Babar Azam in his very first over.

Then came the spin magic of Kuldeep! The last year has seen a total turnaround for him after a not so good 2021 after which he was dropped from the national side as well. Against Pakistan he displayed why he is a changed bowler who now has confidence in his skills. He bamboozled the Pakistani batsmen who are good players of spin and took 5 wickets for 25 as India won with the biggest margin ever of 228 runs against their arch rivals.

After their game against Nepal, Indian bowlers have managed to bowl out both Pakistan and Sri Lanka in their next 2 matches and have fully backed their batsmen in the journey to the finals. On a raging turner where the ball was gripping, Indian batsmen struggled to put up a strong total. But Indian bowlers ensured that there were no hiccups as they won by 41 runs. It was Bumrah who got the initial breakthroughs in the first few overs and put Lanka on the backfoot from the start chasing a small total. All the bowlers were clinical but Kuldeep again took the honours as he cleaned up the Lankan tail with 4 key wickets.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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