Threat of a washout looms over Super 4 clash against Pakistan
After numerous statements by current and former board chiefs and players, a plethora of social media posts, sarcasm-dipped icy barbs about floodlight failure in Lahore and tireless discussion over rainy Colombo as a choice of venue for a marquee event like the Asia Cup, the focus will finally shift to cricket as India take on Pakistan in the Super Four clash of the tournament at the Sri Lankan capital’s throbbing cricketing epicentre, the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday.
Asia Cup: India open their ‘Super 4’ campaign vs Pakistan
Rohit Sharma‘s India would do well to block out the outside noise and swat away all distractions and focus on the issues confronting the team.
The biggest would be whom to pick between the returning
and the in-form
. The latter played a capital innings last Saturday in Pallekele and rescued India from 66 for 4 in the company of
, before rain played spoilsport.
While Rahul’s return from a niggle will be welcomed by the team management as he provides an attractive option at No.5, where he averages 53 and who can both attack and graft like he did at the Wankhede vs Australia in March, Kishan’s performance in the last four games, will send skipper Rohit and coach Dravid on the hunt for aspirin.
Kishan offers the team a break from an array of right-handers in the top six and having shown the willingness to drop down from the opening spot and having displayed the maturity to bat in the middle overs, one will have to see if the team rewards him for showing that flexibility, especially under pressure.
Pakistan cricket team prepares for tomorrow’s match with practice session in Colombo
India will also be boosted by the return of new dad
after he missed the rain-shortened tie vs Nepal to make a quick dash to India and witness the arrival of his first born.
A decent outing for Bumrah with the ball here against quality opposition is what India are searching for as they constantly monitor his fitness after a lengthy layoff post back surgery.
All this is in the realm of conjecture as of now though as there is a significant chance of rain affecting the contest which has forced the organisers to have a reserve day only for this match, which has triggered robust debate.
India’s arch-rivals have no worries or confusion about the combinations they need to go in with. Pakistan have shown uncharacteristic stability and calmness in white-ball cricket over the past 18 months. Their trio of pacers,
Shaheen Shah Afridi
, Haris Rauf, and Naseem Shah are a handful, and they did puncture the confidence of prolific run-scorers, skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and
in the last game.
The way their speedy attack induced the errors from India’s toporder and the ease with which they polished the lower-order last week and cleaned up Bangladesh in Lahore to win by seven wickets, is enough to put everyone on notice.
With Colombo being wet, one can only guess how much preparation time has gone into the wicket and how much sunshine it has received. The Pakistan pace trio is incisive even on the flattest of surfaces and if India counter them on an underprepared or damp pitch, more trouble may be in store.
Afridi, Rauf, and Shah have taken 23 of the 30 wickets that Pakistan have taken in the three games so far. Skipper
may revisit the tactic of playing with two spinners and think of either retaining Faheem Ashraf or picking the sharpish Mohammad Wasim Junior to add more pace options, the lack of which allowed India to profit in the middle overs in Pallekele.
A win on Sunday could help Pakistan go through to the final, barring something ridiculous happening. India have a potent seam bowling line-up too with Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj, but an obsession with batting depth may see them take the safe option of playing Shardul Thakur in place of Shami again.
Over to the weather gods.