July 05 2020
Asia Cup 2018: India takes on Afghanistan in inconsequential outing
25 September 2018

Often in cricket, the ‘Law of Averages’ catches up with the best performing teams at a critical juncture.

 Upsets, heroics, lopsided wins, nail-biting finishes.

Besides witnessing all these over the last eight days, the Asia Cup has also seen inconsequential affairs.

Tuesday will add to the list of matches with no impact on the tournament as India — having already booked a place in the final — will play Afghanistan.

Shattering losses

The Afghans, whose shattering last-over losses in its last two games have put an end to its hopes of progressing to the final, takes on India in the penultimate clash of the Super Four stage.

Of the 10 games so far, the last two of the league stage were inconsequential ties. Add to that Tuesday's and it may give food for thought to the organisers over the format of the tournament.

At a time when international cricket in general and ODI cricket in particular is fighting for relevance, three meaningless affairs in a tournament of 13 matches means detrimental to spectator interest.

India-Pakistan final?

But, with Pakistan still in contention to make it a mouthwatering India-Pakistan final, wonder if the key stakeholders, including the organisers and the broadcaster, will be forced to rethink the format. 

The teams, on the other hand, will take the field at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium with contrasting mindsets.

India may well rotate the squad in order to rest key players and let the bench have a look-in, while Afghanistan will hope to cross the line after twice suffering from the so-near-yet-so-far syndrome. 

Don't be surprised if speedster Jasprit Bumrah is given a break, just like he was during India's tournament-opener versus Hong Kong.

If the yorker specialist, who bamboozled the Pakistan lower order with his consistency on Sunday, is given a deserving break, rookie left-armer Khaleel Ahmed will get another outing.

Similarly, the management may be tempted to rest in-form Shikhar Dhawan and give game-time to K.L. Rahul, who has been serving drinks the whole week.

Manish Pandey too is waiting for a place in the starting line-up but it will be interesting to see if the think-tank gives Ambati Rayudu or Dinesh Karthik a break.

Afghanistan's ability to rise from the disappointment of failing to cross the line will be on test.

Had Asghar Afghan's men held their nerve in the last over either versus Pakistan or Bangladesh, the team would have been in contention to make it to the final.

Leggies' battle

The match will also see two of the most successful leg-spinners in white-ball cricket in the last couple of years, plying their trade against each other.

Rashid Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal will be hoping to outdo the other in terms of impact on the game.

Chahal said after the win against Pakistan on Sunday night that he was a “fan of Rashid's bowling” and was keen on discussing the nuances of leg-spin bowling with his counterpart on the sidelines of the game. 

The teams (from):

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Shikhar Dhawan (Vice-Capt.), K.L. Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, M.S. Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar and Siddharth Kaul.

Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (Capt.), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmat Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Aftab Alam, Samiullah Shinwari, Munir Ahmad Kakar (wk), Sayed Ahmad Sherzad, Sharafudin Ashraf and Wafadar.

On-field umpires: Gregory Brathwaite and Anisur Rahman; TV Umpire: Rod Tucker; Match referee: Andy Pycroft.



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