Anticipation mounts as cricketing giants India and Pakistan rekindle their fierce rivalry on the One Day Internationals (ODIs) stage at the highly awaited Asia Cup 2023. Drawn in Group A, both sides meet on September 2 in Kandy, and can potentially meet two more times in the tournament with top-2 finishes in group and Super Four stages respectively. In preparation for this intense challenge, the likely return of star pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj lends a promising dimension to India’s pace attack. However, the batting department continues to pose significant concerns for Rohit Sharma’s men.
There remains uncertainty over the availability of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, both of whom are currently undergoing recovery at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. While Rahul is India’s first-choice wicketkeeper-batter and no.5 in the batting order, Iyer had cemented his place as the side’s no.4 before an injury earlier this year ruled him out of action for the Australia ODIs, the Indian Premier League, as well as the side’s return to fifty-over format in the West Indies.
In their absence, Suryakumar Yadav – Iyer’s replacement in the middle-order – has endured poor outings this year, while young wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan did produce impressive performances but as an opener. Former Pakistan cricketer Basit Ali believes that India’s lack of consistency in the middle-order could backfire for the side and claimed Pakistan enjoys a healthy middle-order unit at present.
“We have Babar, Fakhar, Imam and Rizwan at the top, Iftikhar and Salman Ali in the middle and Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz can be a bit handy down the order. In comparison, we have a better middle order than India. If Ishan Kishan plays at no. 5, fingers are crossed. No idea how will he perform there. India could also play Tilak Varma at no. 3 and bring Kohli at no. 4,” Basit Ali said in a video uploaded on his YouTube channel.
“India will face problem at no. 4, 5 and 6. They have three top-class batters in Rohit, Virat and Gill at the top. India will depend on their top three. If they perform, it will be difficult to beat India at the World Cup and the Asia Cup,” he added.
Tilak has enjoyed impressive outings on his maiden international tour in West Indies, but is yet to play an ODI. Ishan, meanwhile, has largely been used as an opener and a sudden change in his batting role, particularly with the World Cup approaching in less than two months, is far from ideal. India are expected to announce their Asia Cup squad on Monday (August 21).
Source : Hindustan Times