India-Pakistan Playing XI tip-off: Axar Patel for Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Hasnain for Shahnawaz Dahani, maybe R Ashwin for Avesh Khan

India-Pakistan games aren’t for the faint hearted. That’s why Playing XI decisions for these matches are not just taken by just considering the skills of players. Temperament too is a factor. Injuries and form are the reasons the two teams will be forced to make changes. Indian Express argues for the inclusion of Axar Patel, Mohammad Hasnain and Haider Ali for the second Asia Cup clash between the great rivals.

The other selection talking point will be about Indian skipper Rohit Sharma playing 5 of 6 bowlers. Against Hong Kong he went with 5 but is expected to revert back to 6 for the Pakistan clash. In case he does play 5 bowlers, both wicket-keepers Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik can take the field.

Like-for-like replacement likely: Axar for Jadeja

The Indian team management will be dealing with a spin-dilemma before the toss. Axar Patel or R Ashwin is not an easy choice since they are contrastingly different bowlers. Conditions and opposition is a factor but both Axar and Ashwin will have a challenge at hand when bowling against the Pakistan batsmen in Dubai. Since the time Rohit Sharma has been appointed the captain, there has been a revival of Ashwin’s white-ball career but it remains to be seen if gets into the playing XI today. There are a couple of reasons for Axar’s inclusion. Since teams prefer to retain winning combinations, Axar for Jadeja, both left-arm spinners, will be the case of India sticking to the winning composition. Axar’s last international outings in the West Indies will also give the captain the confidence to include him. Till recently, a 2/30 in 10 overs with a maidan against Zimbabwe couldn’t have been a reason to include a spinner for a game against Pakistan but not now. Zimbabwe’s win over Australia has changed perspective. Axar looks odds-on favourite to play but Rohit can include Ashwin if he wants to take a gamble, pull off a surprise or want a wicket-taker with a new ball. In case Rohit plays just 5 bowlers, Ashwin can replace out of form pacer Avesh Khan. In that case it will be Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Chahal, Axar, Ashwin and both Rishabh and DK in the team. Virat Kohli the bowler will have to be called in case one of the bowlers falters. Quite a risky proposition against Pakistan.

150 Hasnain as Naseem’s

The highly impressive Pakistan pace department in this Asia Cup has been injury prone. The adversity has helped the team showcase its depth. When Shaheen Afridi was ruled out, Naseem Khan took the role of pace spearhead like fish to water. His partner Shahnawaz Dahani too showed the temperament to hold his own on the big stage. He bowled with pace and even hit a few lusty blows batting down the order. Now, even Dahani’s out but Pakistan, like always, isn’t short of options. Babar has two options: Express pacer and proud member of the 150 kph Club Mohammad Hasnain or old hand Hasan Ali. Babar’s liking for Ali is known but Pakistan fans and experts want to see the raw pace of Hasnain. The young speedster has just returned to international cricket after ICC has asked him to go for action correction. Before his inclusion in the Asia Cup squad, Hasnain had been sending the stumps cartwheeling with his toe-crushing late-swinging yorkers on the England county circuit. If Babar lets his heart rule, Hasnain would be opening the bowling attack with Naseem. If that happens, leave aside everything and watch the first 10 overs of Pakistan innings. Express Pak pacers vs World Class Indian Top 3 will be a face-off to relish.

Haider Ali could be a surprise

Mohammad Hafeez is called Professor in Pakistan cricket. His statements are well articulated and are backed by facts. On Pakistan TV the other day, he threw his weight behind the young exciting batter Haider Ali who has been on drinks duty so far in the Asia Cup. “If we wait for Haidar Ali to play at No.3 he will have to sit out for 4 to 5 years. Fakhar, Babar and Rizwan will be around for the next 4 to 5 years. So what you mean is that Haidar has to sit outside for 6 years waiting to be Pakistan’s No.3. He can be No.4 but the management has given Iftikar a chance at No.4 that too should be justified. Since the power hitters have not been that uccessful, Haidar should be included at No.5 or No.6 to establish himself,” he said. As usual, the Professor makes sense. Asif Ali has faced a lot of criticism of late so pushing down the order a designated No.3 wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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