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Set to pick Asia Cup squad, selectors face middle-order challenge

The tournament, starting September 15, features India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and one more team from the qualifiers. India are placed in Group A alongside Pakistan and the qualifying team.

cricket Updated: Sep 12, 2018 13:03 IST
Devarchit Varma
Devarchit Varma
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Asia Cup,India Cricket team,Virat Kohli
India won the Asia Cup in 2016.(REUTERS)

Five-time champions India will announce their Asia Cup squad on Saturday here, looking to address their middle-order woes while resuming preparations for next year’s World Cup in England with a crucial multi-nation tournament.

The Asia Cup returns to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in order to seamlessly accommodate a sell-out India-Pakistan clash on September 19 in Dubai, with the tournament going back to the 50-over format after a tryst with the shortest form two years ago.

The tournament, starting September 15, features India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and one more team from the qualifiers. India are placed in Group A alongside Pakistan and the qualifying team.

While India’s success in one-day format is largely built on the exploits of their batting top three — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli — the middle-order has time and again let the team down and is one concern for the team that last won the 50-over Asia Cup in 2010. Since then, India have not even made it to the final after winning the trophy in Sri Lanka eight years ago.

India did win the Asia Cup title in 2016, defeating Bangladesh in the final, but that was a tournament in T20 format to help teams prepare for the ICC World Twenty20. Kohli’s rich-form and India’s record is likely to force selectors to continue playing him, despite only a six-day gap after the ongoing Test tour of England.

It remains to be seen if selectors decide to rest Kohli with a home series lined up against West Indies after the Asia Cup, followed by a tour of Australia. In case Kohli is rested, Rohit is likely to take up the captaincy role.

Mayank Agarwal (236 runs in four matches) has once again posed a tough question for the selectors to test him at the biggest stage after a successful quadrangular series. Apart from him, good form of Ambati Rayudu (187) and Manish Pandey (306) means Shreyas Iyer may miss out on a spot.

Rishabh Pant’s encouraging debut in England Test series may also tempt selectors to name him as back-up and understudy to MS Dhoni, with Dinesh Karthik’s poor run likely to prove costly for him. While the spin attack of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav looks to be retained, the fast bowling arsenal is set to be bolstered with the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar who claimed three wickets in his only match in the quadrangular series.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 22:00 IST