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Team India Enters Super Four But Needs Huge Improvement to LIFT ASIA CUP!
Team India has stuttered its way to the Super Fours of the Asia Cup after rain-affected games against Pakistan and Nepal. Though the weather didn’t allow full matches, several chinks were visible in the Indian armour in both encounters. Pakistan exposed the vulnerability of the top order batting against left arm seamers and the Nepal game showed why India is missing Bumrah badly as the new ball leaked runs. While India shared points with Pakistan, Nepal put up a strong fight and eventually lost on Duckworth Lewis. But now with top teams of Asia qualified in the Super Fours, there is little room for errors and Team India needs to be sharp with their skills!
The Asia Cup this time has an interesting format where after the initial group stage, top 4 teams play each other once and then the top 2 head to the finals. Besides India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan have qualified into the Top 4. Pakistan has already begun their Super Four campaign impressively as they beat Bangladesh comprehensively. They look like the most complete team in the tournament with both bat and ball. Team India faces them again on Sunday in Colombo. In their previous encounter last week, Pakistan had rocked the Indian top order. It was only a valiant effort by Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya that took India to a respectable total before rain ended the match without the Pakistan innings even starting.
Indian bowlers got a chance to display their skills in the game against Nepal. In Bumrah’s absence, who flew back to India for the birth of his child, Shami and Siraj took charge of the new ball. But they were disappointing as Nepal openers hammered them for over 6 runs an over without losing a wicket in the first 10 overs. It was a gutsy display by Nepal batsmen, showing promise on the international stage. But their inexperience left them with a subpar total and Indian openers got the reduced target due to rain quite easily. Even Afghanistan put up a spirited fight against Sri Lanka in a must win game for them to qualify for Super Four. But slight miscalculation on the net run rate scenario left them just short of what would have been a huge accomplishment if they had got into the top 4.
Of the 4 teams left in the fray, India is the side which has won the Asia Cup 7 times, the most among all teams! India is also a strong contender for the upcoming World Cup but sadly, their performances so far have left many worrying that the team’s preparations are undercooked and most players looked rather rusty in both the matches. Even Team India’s fielding has been quite poor and against Nepal they dropped 3 simple catches in the first 5 overs!
The biggest positive that’s come out for India is the batting of Ishan Kishan. The talented southpaw has been consistent of late and looked fluent against Pakistan as well. Kishan also allayed doubts about his batting in the middle order which is where he may be slotted as Rahul’s fitness remains uncertain. Importantly, Hardik Pandya also hit form and his 100-run partnership with Kishan was the saving grace of India’s batting against Pakistan. For India to go all the way in the Asia Cup, Rohit and Virat must find their mojo quickly.
Luckily for Team India, Shreyas Iyer looked in good nick in his brief stay at the crease against Pakistan. His form will be crucial in the Asia Cup and then the World Cup for India’s chances. His direct clash for the number 4 spot is with Suryakumar Yadav but Shreyas is the preferred choice for now. A day before the crucial match with Pakistan, KL Rahul was also seen in practice and may get a chance to test his fitness. He hasn’t played an ODI since March this year!
After a few days of rest, India now plays 3 games in one week and a potential final next Sunday. But they have to take one step at a time and concentrate on the Pakistan game. Rain is again expected to play spoilsport in Colombo but the India-Pak game is the only one in the Asia Cup with a reserve day – and that increases the chance of a result. Going into the match Pakistan looks stronger and Team India is still struggling to cover all the bases. On the day though, it’ll be one Asian giant against another and the winner of the game would have almost sealed their way into the tournament finals!
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