With Problems Aplenty, India Have Much to Get Right Tonight Against Pakistan – Asia Cup 2018

Did India take their opening match of the Asia Cup, against Hong Kong, lightly? No. Did they use the opportunity of playing against an unestablished team as a chance to try a few things? Yes. Were they right in doing so? Absolutely |

With the World Cup approximately nine months away, and India playing 20-odd 50-over matches in the meantime, any chance to nail down their best players in the top order and lower middle-order cannot be wasted.

Virat Kohli will slot back into this line-up and can bat wherever he wants in the top order, and is all but guaranteed to score runs, but many questions remain unanswered about India’s medium-term batting prospects. Rohit Sharma, who is warming Kohli’s throne for the moment, was candid in his assessment before the match against Hong Kong.

While conceding that the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 spots were up for grabs, Rohit disagreed when it was suggested that the top order was not gelling well. Rather, he said, it was a chance for someone to claim a spot with one good innings. “Yeah it is not settled, we all know about it because there’s been a lot of guys who have played at that position. Going forward we want everything to be settled, but it gives opportunity to the guys to play the cricket they like and seal the spot,” said Rohit. “I wouldn’t say it is a concern, but if you look at the future, as a captain or player you want your team to be settled. Nobody likes to be dropped and brought back. We want everyone to feel safe and settled, so that they can play freely.”

Safe, settled, play freely. Rohit looked at all of those things after Hong Kong invited India to bat but one shot when he took on the left-arm spinner and went leg-side instead of off ended his innings. Shikhar Dhawan went past 4500 ODI runs in his 106th ODI, scoring his 14th century, while never looking overly dominant or masterful. But, oddly enough, when Kohli had played the same number of matches, back in 2013, he had the same number of centuries. This is not to say that Dhawan will match Kohli, but it does warn you about the dangers of assessing a batsman on statistics alone.

Let’s assume Dhawan is settled, and there’s no need for a debate on his opening partner, Rohit. Who bats at three? There is no obvious choice because this has been a musical chairs kind of position, and it is delicate because it also impacts who bats next and at No. 6.

Kohli slots in at four, Mahendra Singh Dhoni at five, but who between Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Kartik, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav fills these slots.

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