In Group A, Pakistan have already secured a spot in the Super Four with 3 points, while India have one point from their rained-out match against their arch-rivals on Saturday.
Even in the event of another rain-affected match, India can progress to the Super Four with two points, but Captain Rohit Sharma and his team would undoubtedly prefer to earn their spot on merit.India drew some positive signs from their game against Pakistan and is eager to build on them as they approach the crucial stages of the tournament, where tougher challenges await.
During the match against Pakistan, India found themselves in a precarious position at 66 for 4 by the 15th over, primarily due to the formidable performance of Pakistan’s pacers, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf. At this juncture, India’s concerns were compounded by the vulnerability of their middle-order.
Ishan Kishan, playing his first ODI match at No. 5, and Hardik Pandya, who isn’t typically regarded as a rescue act in the lineup, combined to construct a crucial partnership of 138 runs for the fifth wicket, which eventually bolstered India’s total to 266.
Kishan’s adaptability was particularly impressive, considering he is more accustomed to a swashbuckling top-order role. This prompted some uncertainty regarding whether Kishan could make the necessary adjustments in his batting style and approach to suit the No. 5 position.
He excelled on both the counts. As a top-order batter Kishan was susceptible to pacers who could move the ball around.
Instead of trusting his defence, Kishan’s method to get out of the cage was being aggressive. But here he had to be defensive.
Rauf, Afridi and Naseem Shah tested his fortitude but for once Kishan showed that he can offer a scratch.
Nepal do not have the quality of Pakistan, but Kishan would like to have a go at them and add some more runs under his belt to boost his new profile.
Similarly, the management will also welcome the composure Pandya showed while playing second fiddle to Kishan, and the seamless shifting of gears the all-rounder did after the left-hander’s dismissal.
The adaptability and the no-egotistical methods of Pandya would have pleased the think-tank no end.
Even though the stuttering effort of their top four – Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer – against Pakistan pacers could be treated as an aberration, the management would want them to get into ODI mode at the earliest.
Rohit and Kohli were rested for the ODIs against the West Indies, while Shreyas Iyer is making his return after an injury lay-off.
Nepal might just give the trio the perfect opposition to earn some valuable game time and runs.
However, the team top brass might be a tad disappointed because the bowlers never got a chance to test their skills against a quality opponent in Pakistan.
They would have been eager to see how Jasprit Bumrah responded to the task of bowling 10 overs and fielding the length of 50 overs.
Hence, his performance will be keenly monitored against Nepal.
Nepal, who lost to Pakistan by 238 runs in the tournament opener, would be eager to mask their lack of cricketing pedigree with their enthusiasm.
Their biggest hope to make some impact in the match will be leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and captain Rohit Paudel.
But in the real world, they will be more than happy to limit the damage to the minimum against a cricketing powerhouse like India.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumraj, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Sanju Samson (travelling reserve).
Nepal: Rohit Paudel (captain), Kushal Bhurtel, Aasif Sheikh, Bhim Sharki, Kushal Malla, Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gulshan Jha, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Lalit Rajbanshi, Pratish GC, Mousom Dhakal, Sundeep Jora, Kishore Mahato, Arjun Saud.
(With inputs from PTI)