Dubai: The Indian cricket team will hope that its untested middle order gets some game time ahead of the grand finale when it takes on an ever-improving Afghanistan in the final Super Four encounter of the Asia Cup here, Tuesday.
India have been on a roll after an unimpressive start against Hong Kong, with couple of one-sided victories over arch-rivals Pakistan and an equally facile one against Bangladesh.
With a spot in Friday’s final sealed, skipper Rohit Sharma may want some of his untested middle order batsmen to get quality time in the middle against someone of Rashid Khan’s calibre.
Often in cricket, the ‘Law of Averages’ catches up with the best performing teams at a critical juncture. Shikhar Dhawan (327 runs) and skipper Rohit (269 runs) have done the bulk of the scoring in the four matches so far with very little contribution being required from the other batsmen in the line-up. The next highest scorer is Ambati Rayudu (116 runs) because he comes in at No.3.
The problem has been lack of batting time for the likes of MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik so far. Rohit and Shikhar have so far faced 284 and 321 deliveries respectively. The next best Rayudu has played 162 balls.
However, Karthik (78 balls), Dhoni (40 balls) and Kedar (27 balls) can be found wanting if there is a top order collapse on the big day.
Rohit had given Dhoni an opportunity to come in at No.4 against Bangladesh and the former captain scored 33 runs. But it was a pressure-free situation. Dhoni’s achilles heel of late has been to keep the scoreboard ticking in pressure situations that the middle overs throw up.
If the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman can put pressure, it will be a good warm-up for the middle order trio before the final match.
The Indian captain might fancy batting first in case he wins the toss, which in turn will give his team a chance to bat 50 overs instead of chasing another modest total.
The Indian bowlers have been splendid on the slow Dubai International Stadium track with all the bowlers enjoying an economy rate of less than five runs per over.
There is a possibility that India might rest both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah before the summit clash to help them recharge their batteries. In such a scenario, two among Deepak Chahar, Siddharth Kaul and Khaleel Ahmed will take their spots in the playing XI for the game.
For Afghanistan, a win against the fancied Indian side will be a great end to the tournament where they have been competitive throughout, only losing out due to lack of experience.