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With spot in the final sealed, chance for India’s reserves to impress

Last updated on 14 Sep 2023 | 02:39 PM
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With spot in the final sealed, chance for India’s reserves to impress

Bangladesh, meanwhile, will be playing for pride, having already been knocked out of Asia Cup 2023

Team India have played only three ‘completed’ matches so far this Asia Cup, but they’ve had to dig deep. Really deep.

Against Pakistan in Pallekele, they were up against a fast-bowling storm. They just about weathered it, thanks to their middle-order.

Nepal was, on paper, supposed to be a straightforward game but Rohit Sharma & Co.’s own sloppiness ended up complicating the challenge. They eventually got over the line comfortably, but not before a mini-scare.

The Pakistan clash in Colombo, ironically, proved to be the easiest of all contests but there they had to fight a bigger force in rain. For the longest time, it looked like mother nature would prevail but, in the end, the Men in Blue reigned supreme.

They faced a vicious trial by spin on Tuesday against Sri Lanka but, once again, dug really deep and prevailed. 

It’s not been easy, and it’s been far from straightforward, but India have nailed every challenge and passed every test that’s come their way so far. As a result, they sit comfortably in the final, meaning their final Super Four clash against Bangladesh, who are already knocked out, is a dead rubber.

It remains to be seen just how ‘experimental’ India will go with their XI but, having sealed a place in the final already, the Men in Blue are expected to rest several key players and give an opportunity to the reserves, at least certainly to the ones that are in the provisional World Cup squad. 

Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Mohammed Siraj could be among those rested, with Suryakumar Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Prasidh Krishna likely to take their places. 

But all eyes will be on Shreyas Iyer. The right-hander, who missed the last two games due to a back spasm, batted without discomfort in the nets earlier today (September 14) and did seem like he should be good to go. What will be interesting to see is if the management throw him into the mix right away or instead prefer to wrap the 28-year-old in cotton wool.

Our man Bastab Parida, currently in Colombo, attended the optional net session team India held earlier today — you can check out this piece from him to get in-depth information. 

Bangladesh, meanwhile, will be playing for pride, having already been knocked out of Asia Cup 2023. For Friday’s clash, they will be without the services of Mushfiqur Rahim, who has headed back home for the birth of his child. 

Things to watch out for 

Axar Patel’s dwindling returns with the ballIt was the bowlers that won India the Sri Lanka clash on Tuesday, but despite a stellar team effort with the ball, one player stood out for the wrong reasons: Axar Patel. On a wicket tailor-made for spinners, Axar disappointed big time, returning figures of 0/29 as he struggled to not only get his radar right, but also to find any bite. 

Axar’s showing would not have been a concern had it been a one-off, but the truth is that, for a while now, the left-arm spinner has failed to threaten in 50-over cricket. 

Dating back to the Bangladesh series last year, Axar, in his last 9 ODIs, has picked 5 wickets at an average of 50.20. He’s bowled 8 times and has gone wicketless in 5 of those innings.

It is unlikely that Axar will get dropped from the World Cup squad at the last moment, even if he has a poor string of games, but with the World Cup looming, India will need the 29-year-old to be at the top of his game. That way, Axar is in desperate need of a strong showing with the ball to build up his confidence. 

‘India slayer’ Mehidy Hasan’s batting in focusThe Bangladesh batters have collectively failed to fire as a unit this Asia Cup, but India will still do well to be wary of Mehidy Hasan’s threat — with the bat. In his ODI career, the right-hander averages 23.47 with the bat but this number rises to an incredible 71.66 against India. In fact, astonishingly, 20.81% of Mehidy’s ODI runs have come against India.

The 25-year-old’s batting proved to be the difference between the two sides when they met in a three-match series in Bangladesh last year, with him smashing 141 runs at an average of 141.00, including striking an unbeaten ton in the second ODI that helped the Tigers seal the series.

With 145 runs @ 48.33, Mehidy is Bangladesh’s second-highest run-getter this Asia Cup and is also batting up the order, having been promoted to open. He’s struck the Tigers’ only ton of this Asia Cup so far, his 112* against Afghanistan helping Bangladesh reach the Super Four.

Considering Mehidy’s batting has proven to be India’s kryptonite many a time, his performance tomorrow will be an interesting sub-plot. 

Tactical Nous> Since September 2022, India’s average of 31.6 against left-arm spin is seventh among top ten teams. This average dropped to 22.6  in the ODI series in Bangladesh last year and the Men in Blue are entering Friday’s clash on the back of getting dominated by young Dunith Wellalage, who spun a web around them. 

Considering this, it might not be a bad option for Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan to introduce himself into the attack pretty early.  The last time these two sides met, Shakib picked 9 wickets across three ODIs at an average of 15.88, including picking a match-winning five-fer in Mirpur.

> On the contrary, India might be better off attacking Bangladesh with pace. Fast bowling has been the Tigers’ kryptonite this Asia Cup: they’ve lost nearly 68% of their wickets to pace and have averaged just 23.1 versus the quicks as opposed to 44.1 against spin. 

Probable XIs

With a spot in the final sealed, India are likely to rest several big guns. Shreyas Iyer is among those likely to make his way into the XI.

India possible XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma (capt), Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Prasidh Krishna

Bangladesh will be without the services of Mushfiqur Rahim, who is likely to be replaced by Anamul Haque

Bangladesh possible XI: Mohammad Naim, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Litton Das, Shakib Al Hasan (c), Towhid Hridoy, Anamul Haque (wk), Shamim Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam, Hasan Mahmud, Nasum Ahmed

Click here for the full Asia Cup 2023 schedule

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