While the primary focus remains on achieving team objectives, the Indian management is keen on fielding the strongest possible eleven against Pakistan, who they are meeting for the second time in the event, captained by Rohit Sharma.
However, solving this conundrum takes precedence. They must also hope for favorable weather conditions, but a reserve day has been added.
Asia Cup: India open their ‘Super 4’ campaign vs Pakistan
Rahul’s return to the squad has significantly expanded the pool of available players, but it has also presented a pleasant predicament. Ishan has made a compelling case for himself recently, notching up four half-centuries in as many matches, including a crucial one against Pakistan in the Asia Cup Group A match at Pallekele just last week.
Kishan’s versatility has been on full display, comfortably adapting to various batting positions, from opening to No. 5. Moreover, his left-handed batting adds a unique dimension to the Indian line-up, further strengthening his case.
Despite Ishan’s impressive form, Rahul’s claim for the No. 5 position is hard to disregard. The Bengaluru cricketer has been a consistent performer in ODIs, maintaining a steady record since 2019, even though he hasn’t played since March due to a thigh injury and subsequent recovery. His stats further support his case, especially when batting at No. 5, where he has amassed 742 runs from 18 matches at an average of 53, with a hundred and seven fifties.
Rahul’s wicket-keeping skills also offer an added advantage.
With Rahul seen actively engaging in wicketkeeping drills during practice, it signals his readiness for a comeback. Consequently, the team management faces a difficult decision on match-day.
While the decision on Rahul vs Kishan is vital for finding the right balance, India is also keen to start the ‘Super 4’ stage with a victory, regardless of the combination they field.
Pakistan have already secured two points by defeating Bangladesh, positioning themselves well for the final.
India, however, must contend with a formidable Pakistan bowling attack capable of making an impact on any pitch. They’ll be watchful of Shaheen Shah Afridi’s high-paced deliveries, but Pakistan boasts other explosive performers, with Haris Rauf leading the Asia Cup bowling chart with 9 wickets from three matches. Naseem Shah has also taken 7 wickets, leaving no room for error for opposition batters.
While Pakistan may seem stronger on paper in this department, India believe they have the firepower to retaliate. The return of Jasprit Bumrah, along with the support of Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, will bolster India’s bowling line-up.
However, when these two cricketing giants take the field, factors like playing 11, form and past records become irrelevant.
(With agency inputs)