Asia Cup: Focus on Bumrah & Rahul
India's two premier players in the 50-over format could make a return when India take on Pakistan in the Super Four stage on Sunday.
COLOMBO: The much-anticipated clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, second meeting in the last eight days, here at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Sunday could witness the return of two of India's premier players in the 50-over format after long lay-offs due to injuries and surgeries thereafter.
Wicketkeeper-batter KL Rahul sustained a thigh injury during an IPL match in May and had to undergo surgery. He last played an ODI for India in March this year. Another high-profile comeback to the team could be of Jasprit Bumrah.
He made his ODI return in the team's Asia Cup opener against Pakistan on September 2 but the Gujarat pacer could not bowl a single ball as the match was abandoned due to rain. He skipped the next match against Nepal. Before this, Bumrah last played an ODI for India in July last year.
Two proven players coming back to the squad is always a big welcome for India. However, the Indian team management could face a selection conundrum. The team management may be forced to drop in-form Ishan Kishan, who has hit four consecutive half-centuries in as many ODIs to accommodate Rahul.
In Bumrah's case, Mohammed Shami might be the bowler who'll be demoted to the bench. If the team management goes ahead with this option, it will especially be harsh on Ishan as he had resurrected India's innings against the Men in Green in their previous meeting. And with the ODI World Cup near, the team management will have to be prudent while making such calls.
Chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar, while announcing the World Cup squad, had also said it's good to have two in-form players competing for a place in the team. "Kishan has played well recently. KL's record in ODIs is brilliant. We have two good options. We can pick and choose between the two who will fight for a spot in the team."
Skipper Rohit Sharma, too, had expressed the possibility of both Ishan and Rahul featuring in the playing XI. "There will be a possibility, yes, as long as everyone is available and fit to play. It depends on the opposition that we play, current form, players who have done well under pressure — these things do matter."
Left-hand throwdown specialist
Ahead of the 2018 Asia Cup, India hired the services of Nuwan Seneviratne, a left-arm throwdown specialist from Sri Lanka, who has played two first-class matches. Nuwan is still with the team and so seems the Indian batters' struggles against the left-arm pacers.
So when the optional practice session ahead of their clash against Pakistan began at nets outside the stadium on Saturday afternoon, almost every batter first faced throwdowns from Nuwan at the first wicket before shifting to other nets. With Shaheen Shah Afridi being the wrecker-in-chief — he claimed four wickets including the first two of Rohit and Virat Kohli — in the first match, batters made sure they were well-equipped ahead of the high-intensity encounter on Sunday.
The aforementioned match was also the first senior international game against Pakistan for India opener Shubman Gill. He could only manage 10 off 32 before being sent back by pacer Haris Rauf. Gill admitted the pressure was slightly different as it was his first senior match against the arch-rivals. He said training at the nets with left-arm throwdown specialists has helped India batters a lot.
"Practice with left-arm throwdown specialists has definitely helped. He (Nuwan) has been travelling with us for the last several years. Nice to have that variation. We have that right-arm…side-arm specialist and the left-arm specialist. It does help in any conditions that you play," he said.
The weather may play spoilsport once again as the forecast says chances of precipitation up to 90 per cent on Sunday. Thanks to some arbitrary decision by the Asian Cricket Council, the contest now has a reserve day but even that could prove to be of little help as the chances of precipitation is expected to increase to 99 per cent on Monday as per the forecast.