ROHIT SANKAR | 18 SEPTEMBER, 2018
India-Pak at the Asia Cup: Mini Battles in Focus as Arch Rivals Face Off
The crux of the battle is in its subtleties
It's been more than a year since India and Pakistan have played each other in any format. At the Oval it ended with Pakistan dominating in unceremonious fashion in the finals of the multi-nation Champions Trophy tournament. More than a year later, the Asia Cup has given team India a golden chance to seek revenge at Pakistan's adopted home crowd.
Lot has changed since that night at the Oval but the unparalleled rivalry between the two is the toast of the Asia Cup and fans can barely hold their breath until Wednesday. With Virat Kohli absent and recent form in their favour, Pakistan hope to put one past their arch-rivals but the crux of the battle is in its subtleties. Here we present to you a few mini-battles to watch out for on Wednesday.
Mohammad Amir vs Rohit Sharma
The Mumbai opener would clearly remember the inswinger from Mohammad Amir that sent him back for a duck at the Oval. Amir, who thrives on bringing the ball into the right-hander is a genuine threat for Rohit who tends to fall over when on the flick. This proved to be his undoing in the Champions Trophy final and maybe even after that.
While Amir's form has since been shoddy (3 wickets in 8 ODIs), Rohit has been exemplary but has fallen to left-arm pace as many as seven times across formats. The anticipation of what Amir can do will also haunt Rohit who has the additional pressure of skippering the side in the absence of Kohli. This battle will be tightly fought if the two find their best form.
Kuldeep Yadav vs Babar Azam
Kuldeep Yadav has taken limited-overs cricket by storm since the Champions Trophy final. The chinaman spinner, alongside Yuzvendra Chahal, has ripped apart opposition teams in the middle-overs and with the Pakistan middle-order overly reliant on Babar Azam, the contest between the two would be one to watch out for.
Kuldeep spins the ball into the right hander but has a tricky googly and a handy slider which could cause problems to Azam. The Pakistani batsman is a fine player of spin and is among the select few in his side who has a formidable record against wrist spin. If Pakistan need to hold their heads high against Kuldeep's craftsmanship, they need Azam to keep him quiet.
Usman Khan vs Shikhar Dhawan
A tall fast bowler who bowls with extra pace and generates zip and movement off the surface, Usman Khan has a terrific record in ODIs since the Champions Trophy. His strike rate is the best in the World for fast bowlers with 10 or more wickets in this time frame and he has voiced a resounding warning to the Indians before the all important clash.
Shikhar Dhawan, a crucial member in India's top-order is at his flamboyant best when attacking from the word go. What pegs him back is extra bounce and Usman is sure to generate quite a lot of that aside from a continued persistence in line and length. Life against the left-arm quick can be tough and Dhawan will have to shoulder much of that responsibility with Rohit having his own share of problems against Usman's partner, Amir.
Shadab Khan vs MS Dhoni
Pakistan have nurtured a wrist spinner of their own and Shadab Khan, who has turned heads with his eye-catching performances in limited-overs cricket, will pose problems to India’s middle-order. With the no.4 spot still a debate and Jadhav and Pandya likely to play at 6 and 7, Dhoni is likely to face a lot of Shadab from no.5.
The former Indian skipper is a fine player of spin but has shown a recent tendency of faltering against leg-spin which Pakistan will look to expose through Shadab Khan. The leggie has had a great start to his ODI career and with the surfaces in UAE slower and lower, his turn and variations could come in handy against Dhoni who will be tasked with anchoring the middle-order in the absence of Virat Kohli.