Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Mohammed Shami | ANI
Nothing other than a win in the final of the Asia Cup here on Sunday will whet the appetite of the Indian team and target the ICC World Cup.
Sri Lanka will not be a pushover though; it has a competent group to cause an upset, but a potential full house at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium could be in for a treat. The ticket price has been lowered, and the home team is going to get vociferous support.
Every team will put its best foot forward in order to be in the fray for the big prize at the Narendra Modi Stadium on November 19. So, an ideal preparation for the two Asian teams that have won the World Cup. In that sense, the Asia Cup is an important outing for both teams.
On the way to the final though, India tripped, losing to Bangladesh by six runs. Shubman Gill’s splendid 122 was the only bright spark. After a hesitant start against Pakistan in a group match before the Super 4 stage, when he was bowled by medium pacer Haris Rauf, the lean and mean opener has made amends. Gill’s fifth century in one-day internationals kept India’s hopes alive, but Bangladesh, which won the last two bilateral series, had its say and way!
India did not take the field with its bowling force; it chose to rest Its seam attack in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Hardik Pandya and also the left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. These four and the orthodox left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja could be in the lineup for the first World Cup match against Australia in Chennai on October 8.
It was Siraj who shared the new ball with Bumrah against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Super 4 stage, and it's an indication of the team’s strategy to deploy Siraj and Mohammed Shami on a match-need basis. With nine league matches to be played, the workload management will come into play depending on the opponent and the texture of the surface.
In the absence of the top three fast and seam bowlers, Shami and Shardul Thakur operated with the new ball. Thakur sent down ten overs and picked up three wickets, but he scored 6.5 runs an over. Shami was economical, taking two for 33 in eight, and playing his first match, Prasidh Krishna took one for 43 in nine overs.
After recovering from a back injury and undergoing surgery, Krishna was playing his first match since August last year in Harare. The tall Karnataka seamer will need more time to get into the groove. He is not been chosen for the World Cup.
While there may not be much to gripe about the composition of the bowling attack for the biggest competition in white ball cricket, the absence of a right-hand finger spinner could hurt India.
Talking to a few reporters, former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga felt that the experienced Ravichandran Ashwin could be useful. It appears that Washington Sundar has not done enough to convince the selection committee about the area he wants to specialise in. Should an injury happen to a spinner during the competition, then the team and selection committee may go for either Ashwin or Sundar.
There is merit in the rationale to go for the all-rounder option for the lower-order positions. Jadeja and Pandya would have been automatic selections, but the selection committee has also accommodated Thakur. The Mumbai all-rounder has the knack to get wickets and also has the skill and power to use the long handle.
The preparation of the pitch at all venues will be guided by the long-standing ICC guidance that the surface should not allow for alarming sideways movement and bounce. Anyway, the nature of the pitch in India will show bias to the spinners, and it's on this aspect Kuldeep Yadav will be at the forefront.
The selection committee has already eliminated a competition within the squad by not picking leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Yadav is different from the rest of the group. That he is among wickets is a good sign, but every team draws up a plan through conventional and unorthodox methods to deal with tricky bowlers who are wicket-takers.
All-rounders showed the way for India in the 1983 World Cup, and 40 years later Rohit Sharma is placing his trust in them to deliver the goods and be a force to reckon with.