Asia Cup: Focus on India's middle-order in face-off with confident Pakistan amidst rain threat

Sports |  IANS  | Published :

Pallekele (Sri Lanka), Sept 1 (IANS) In the cool and serene surroundings of Sri Lanka, fans from around the world will witness another chapter being added to the India-Pakistan rivalry when the two neighbours clash in a Group A match of the Asia Cup at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

In India’s opening match of the Asia Cup, they will be without wicketkeeper-batter K.L. Rahul due to a niggle unrelated to his right thigh injury, which has kept him out of action after May 1 this year. Though they have a like-to-like reserve player in Sanju Samson, it seems that Ishan Kishan could bat in the middle-order to fill in for Rahul’s absence.

Though Kishan hit three consecutive fifties in ODIs against West Indies in July, the top three of Shubman Gill, captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been set for a long time. Especially with the Men's ODI World Cup squad selection deadline on September 5, the Indian team won’t be looking at tinkering the top three just to fit in Kishan for a stop-gap period.

Moreover, Kishan brings in the left-handedness in the middle-order, something which India have missed and can be sandwiched between right-handers Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav. If Kishan bats in the middle order, he will have to improve on his average of only 21.2 at No.4 and overcome his struggles against spinners as well as in rotating the strike.

Amidst the middle-order headache, India will be glad that Iyer is back into the national scheme after overcoming an excruciating back injury, which needed surgery and rehab. His return solves India’s concerns at No.4, with Iyer’s ability to use his feet and dominate the spinners taking the team’s charge in middle-overs batting.

India will be keen to see how Suryakumar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya provide the finishing kick with the bat. On the bowling front, the long-awaited return of Jasprit Bumrah and his testing the likes of Pakistan captain Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Rizwan will be keenly witnessed.

India will need to see who between Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Prasidh Krishna will be joining Bumrah in leading the charge with pace. Regarding the composition of their spin attack, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav will be the front runners, but if conditions aid more spin, then Axar Patel can come into play too.

It’s a no-brainer that India’s batting will be largely tested by the Pakistan fiery pace trio of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf in the early part of their innings with the bat. In their unique ways, the trio provide fire, pace and variety to rattle the batters, with leg-spin and left-arm spin duo of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz to complement them.

With the bat, Azam scored his 19th ODI century in the opening game of the Asia Cup against Nepal under testing conditions in Multan and was ably supported by power-hitter Iftikhar Ahmed’s first international century. Pakistan would be hoping that their other batters like Rizwan, Imam and Fakhar Zaman come to the party against India’s bowlers.

Excitement is rife amongst fans on seeing India and Pakistan facing off in ODIs for the first time after the 2019 World Cup clash in Manchester. Though India have won seven of their last 10 ODIs against Pakistan, rain could play spoilsport in Pallekele.

According to, there is an 84 percent chance of thunderstorms and an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday, putting the match under serious doubt. With a capacity crowd expected to throng the stadium for the high-octane India-Pakistan clash, expect another humdinger to be added to their rivalry provided the rain stays away.


India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (unavailable for first two games), Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna and Sanju Samson (travelling reserve).

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Saud Shakeel and Tayyab Tahir (travelling reserve).

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