KARACHI: India is arguably one of the best side in the world of cricket — if not the best — across all formats of the game and therefore, they enter any series or tournament as the favourite to lift the title, which more often than not, they achieve to do so.
But in the upcoming Asia Cup 2018, it will be interesting to see if they can deliver the same kind of performances which is expected of them as they will go without their star player and regular captain Virat Kohli.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain is rested by the Men in Blue for the six-nation event which will start from September 15.
Kohli’s absence will leave a big hole to fill for the defending champions, not only on the field with his dynamic captaincy, but also in the batting department as well.
The 29-year-old is instrumental to team India’s success in all formats, especially in the ODIs. Since January 1,2017, Kohli has scored 2,209 runs in 35 innings at an astonishing average of 88.36 with the strike-rate of 98.44 with the help of nine hundreds and 10 half-centuries, the most by any player in the world.
The second-best in the list is England’s Joe Root, who has scored 1,783 runs in 37 innings at an average of 66.03 and strike-rate of 89.15.
In Kohli’s absence, the stand-in captain Rohit Sharma will be leading the ranks, both on the field and in the batting department as well.
The Mumbai Indians captain is India’s second-leading run-scorer in the 50-over format since the beginning of 2017 with 1,617 runs in 30 innings at an average of 62.19 and strike-rate of 97.23, which included eight centuries and five fifties.
Sharma will be accompanied by veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order and the team management will be expecting big things from the duo.
Sharma, Dhawan along with young KL Rahul will be expected to form the top three and will be expected to provide the platform for the likes of wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni and all-rounder Hardik Pandya to capitalize on in the final stages of the innings.
It will be interesting to see which two players out of Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadav and Ambati Rayudu will get the chance in the final eleven.
In the bowling department, the pace attack will consist of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pandya in all likelihood, whereas wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav will complete the spin department.
India’s participation in the 50-over format is being limited in the year so far as they have only played nine matches, six of which ended in victory.
Team’s highest score of 303 in 2018 came against South Africa, whereas their lowest score of 256 came against England.
The team will be defending their title even though the format will not be the same as it was in the previous edition.
In the previous 50-over editions of the Asia Cup, India have an impressive record to say the least where they won the event record five times.
In terms of number of matches played in the event, the Men in Blue has the second-best win-loss ratio of 1.62 after Sri Lanka (2.42).
V Pak: M 129, W 52, L 73
V Hong Kong: M 1, W 1, L 0
Asia Cup: M 43: W: 26, L: 16
Asia Cup achievements
Second-best win-loss ratio
374 - second-highest score in the tournament
KL Rahul (Batsman)
KL Rahul is likely to be the person who will replace Virat Kohli in the final eleven and is expected to play all the matches barring any unfortunate injury.
Rahul will be coming into the event on the back of a mediocre performance in the five-Test series against England, where he scored more than 200 runs at an average of just over 23 in 10 innings.
The 26-year-old will be desperate to put things right in the 50-over format after suffering a lean patch in the recent past as he registered scores of 0, 9 (not out), 7, 17 and 4 and his last five ODI innings.
Rahul so far has represented the Men in Blue in 12 one-day internationals, where he has scored 257 runs with the help of a solitary century and a half-century.
In the List A career, Rahul has scored 1,614 runs in 50 matches at an average of 37.53 and strike-rate of 73.96 with the help of four centuries and nine half-centuries.
This will be the first time when Rahul will be representing team India in the Asia Cup and it is an opportunity for him to showcase his talent at the grand stage.
Kuldeep Yadav (Bowler)
Kuldeep Yadav is one of the few chinaman currently playing in the international circuit and is perhaps the most successful one out of the lot.
The 23-year-old made his debut after team India’s thrashing in the final against Pakistan in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy final in 2017, and since then, has become a regular in the starting XI.
In his short career of 23 matches only, Yadav has claimed 48 wickets at an average of just 19.35 and strike-rate 4.82, which also included one five-wicket and two four-wicket hauls.
Since the day Yadav made his debut in the 50-over format, no bowler has taken more wickets than him, but interestingly, during that same span of time, he has only managed to bowl four maiden overs.
In his last five ODIs, Yadav has claimed 14 wickets, which included his career-best figures of 6-25 which came in the first game of the three-match series against England in Nottingham.
Yadav along with wrist-spin partner Yuzwinder Chahal has managed to claim over 40% of the total number of wickets team India have claimed since the ICC Champions Trophy final.
Slow pitches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might prove to be an ideal platform for Yadav to once again showcase his talent, this time against oppositions who are good against spin.
Hardik Pandya is being termed as one of the leading all-rounders in the world of cricket, and he has shown time and again that he belongs at the highest level.
The 24-year-old made his debut in the 50-over format against New Zealand in October 2016 and since then, has represented the Men in Blue in 41 ODIs, scoring 670 runs at an average of 29.13 and claiming 40 wickets.
His best performance with the bat came against Australia in Chennai on September 17, 2017, where he scored breathtaking 83 off just 66 balls with the help of five fours and five sixes. His most prominent performance with the ball came in his debut game, where he claimed figures of 3-31.
However, his recent performances in the ODIs will not give him great confidence going into the event as he only averages 13 in last five innings with the bat, whereas he claimed four wickets in the same number of innings with the ball.
For India to do well in the event, Pandya’s role will be of pivotal importance, and it will be interesting to see how Rohit Sharma will use him, especially as a bowler in tough conditions.