India had a perfect XI in the Asia Cup final | Crickit
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India had a perfect XI in the Asia Cup final

BySanjay Manjrekar
Sep 19, 2023 07:05 AM IST

With due respect to Axar Patel, a left-arm wrist spinner and an off-spinner who will add to the batting depth just seems a better balance on turning pitches

A dream tournament with a dream finish!

Indian players pose with trophy after winning the Asia Cup final cricket match between India and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Sri Lanka(AP) PREMIUM
Indian players pose with trophy after winning the Asia Cup final cricket match between India and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Sri Lanka(AP)

That’s what this Asia Cup was for India. India went into the tournament wanting to win the title, but more importantly, with the World Cup impending, they wanted to tick a few important boxes.

Jasprit Bumrah was a major concern going into the Asia Cup. Yes, he had played a couple of internationals in Ireland, but it was a T20 tournament against a non-mainstream team where you are never going to be tested fully. Bumrah more than convinced everyone that he was back to his very best and ready to take on the world.

When Bumrah is fit and playing, you are reminded of how exceptional a bowler he is and how there is a big gap between him and the next best bowler in the side – at least in white-ball cricket.

Siraj was the obvious hero, but the final demonstrated how skilful and accomplished a bowler Bumrah is; first ball of the match, a big out-swinger to the right-hander on target, followed by a big in-swing to the left-hander, again on target. Only a bowler like Bumrah can be so accurate even when the ball is swinging big.

We saw Bumrah the swing bowler more than the seam bowler in this Asia Cup, which means unlike in IPL he also becomes a threat with the new ball in the first 10 overs.

In the last World Cup, we had that famous problem of No. 4. This time we go in with another problem, a problem of plenty, as in contenders for No. 4 and 5. As of now, it seems it’s going to be KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan.

KL Rahul’s niggle just before the Asia Cup had the potential to derail his international career, especially after Ishan Kishan grabbed the opportunity in his absence with both hands against Pakistan.

Shreyas Iyer’s spasm has revived Rahul‘s career and that was the second big gain for India from the Asia Cup. I really like Rahul in the middle, because here his approach is dictated more by the scoreboard than his own mind. When you open the innings the field is wide open for you to choose your own approach, and KL has a tendency to over think in that role. Rahul also looked really good against spin, and that becomes another huge plus for India.

50-over matches rarely go into the last over like T20 matches do. Since 2019, my humble research has shown that only about 9% of the matches have gone down to the wire. Quite a few ODI matches get decided in the first 10 overs, but generally the result is known pretty much in the middle stages. Hence, those batting in the middle getting the ones and twos with basically unspectacular batting are very important guys to win ODI games.

Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya abandoning their natural instincts and playing that ‘boring’ game of ticking off singles against Pakistan was one of the highlights for me in this Asia Cup.

Hopefully, Kuldeep Yadav is made to feel like Bumrah by fans and team management alike. For someone who has always made an impact when he has played, he just hasn’t got the same treatment from India deserving of a serious game-changer in the middle overs. Perhaps in this modern world of power-hitting, his tendency to go for runs because of his slow speed in the air and off the pitch is a risk most captains didn’t want to take.

It’s really heartening to see that Kuldeep has made it easier for the captains to play him because his speed in the air and off the pitch have gone up, but not at the cost of accuracy and turn.

Washington Sundar made a quick trip to Colombo to replace Axar Patel and when I looked at the playing 11 for the final, somehow it looked the perfect 11.

With due respect to Axar Patel, the spin trio of a left-arm spinner, a left-arm wrist spinner and an off-spinner who will add to the batting depth just seems a better balance on turning pitches.

At this stage, with just under three weeks before the World Cup, this Indian side looks a team without any weakness and hopefully it continues to look so during the World Cup.

Indian cricket has reached a stage where it’s all about the final two games in a World Cup, like under Dhoni’s leadership the challenge is to replicate the performance leading up to the semis and the final in the actual semis and the final.

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