Just ahead of the crucial Asia Cup, Team India has had two highly successful and morale-boosting tours. They not only thrashed West Indies and Zimbabwe in One Day International (ODI)s without dropping a single game but in the T20 series, India outclassed the Windies 4-1 as well. Beyond the victories, are the superb performances by a host of rising stars that augur well with the T20 World Cup just 8 weeks away.
The win against the Windies in the T20s was especially impressive considering that the island team is a powerful opponent in the shortest format. On the batting side, with Virat rested and KL Rahul unfit, a host of young guns got opportunities which they encashed in a big way. Surya Kumar Yadav was easily the most consistent and his heroics made Indian wins look easy. He was a class apart and often seemed to be toying with the bowlers. With Virat and Rohit in uncertain form, Surya is possibly the most important cog in India’s batting wheel for the Asia Cup. Even Wasim Akram has now said that Surya might be the biggest threat for Pakistan come to their Asia Cup encounter!
The other young star emerging on the horizon is Deepak Hooda who played some delightful knocks and picked up wickets to showcase his all-round utility. After a fine IPL season, Hooda has shown his prowess with the bat in the limited opportunities for India. In his first seven T20I innings he has scored at a strike rate of over 160 including a terrific hundred against Ireland.
With Rohit also making some useful scores in the Windies and all-rounders like Hardik Pandya and Jadeja in good nick, the batting order looks in good shape. In particular, since the IPL, Hardik has blossomed and displayed what he can do when he is fit. The Gujarat Titans captain is contributing both with bat and ball and is now a huge asset for Team India. The X-factor for the team is Dinesh Karthik who has sealed his spot as a finisher and was in great form in the Windies.
In the two ODI series, Shikhar Dhawan showcased his class and Shubhman Gill enhanced his credentials in white ball cricket. Besides consistent knocks, his aggressive maiden ton in ODI cricket in the last game against Zimbabwe stamped the Test Opener as a batter of great value even in limited overs. In contrast, Shreyas Iyer’s problems against the short ball have got exposed and it is no wonder that he is not part of the Asia Cup squad.
Watch Team India’s video as they start practicing in Dubai for Asia Cup:
Hello DUBAI 🇦🇪
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 24, 2022
However, Virat’s return to form is the big development the entire cricketing world is waiting for, especially Indian cricket lovers. His lean patch has continued for too long whereby murmurs have now begun about his place in the T20 side with many talented youngsters performing well. More importantly, he needs to cut his frequent breaks as more game time will give him chances to regain his midas touch, critical for Team India to lift the T20 World Cup in Australia.
The Bowling unit seems to be running like a well-oiled machine. With Bumrah unfit and Shami not in the squad, the focus is on young pacers. Luckily, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has looked at his best in the recent tours. Not only has he rediscovered his zip and swing but the veteran pacer will also be a great guide for the young guns in the pace armoury. Meanwhile, Avesh Khan has been on target mostly but is inconsistent at times.
The big gain is Arshdeep Singh and his performances both in initial overs and in death overs have been encouraging. Arshdeep can be a toe crusher and his form could be vital to give an edge to India’s attack in the absence of Bumrah and Harshal Patel. As a left-arm, he added much-needed variety and was named Man of the Series in the T20s. Even, Deepak Chahar made a welcome return in the Zimbabwe series but his poor spell in the last ODI reflected that he’s under-cooked to get a recall in the first rung of Team India just yet.
The spinners all seem to be displaying their wares in abundance. Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Bishnoi are both in the Asia Cup squad with their terrific spells in the Windies. With Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin lending all round skills for greater balance, the team has an excess of riches. But it also gives selection headaches as it will be tricky to pick the spinners for the playing 11.
The Indian selectors are now facing a problem of plenty both in batting and bowling. While injuries to top players have opened doors to many youngsters it has also created a dilemma for selectors once the injured and rested players are back in the fray. But it is always a better situation to pick a side from multiple options than to draft in less than the best.
However, the BCCI continues to play musical chairs with the Indian captaincy. After announcing Shikhar as Skipper for the Zimbabwe tour, he was replaced abruptly once KL Rahul was declared fit. A bit of grace and dignity is much-needed to ensure there are no unnecessary frictions being created in a unit that seems strong enough to lift the Asia Cup.
As India opens their Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan, it is significant to remember that the traditional rivals have also been in great form in recent months. While the absence of unfit Shaheen Afridi who had rocked India in the T20 World Cup last year will be a big relief, Team India will need to be at their best if as defending champs they are to regain the Asia Cup trophy in Dubai!