Coming off a washout, India would hope they only have greenhorns Nepal to tackle and not rain as the heavyweights eye a berth in the Super Four of the Asia Cup here on Monday. From Group A, Pakistan have already qualified to the Super Four with 3 points, and India have one point from the washed-out game against their arch-rivals on Saturday.
Even in the event of another rain-marred match on the morrow, India can advance to the Super Four with two points, but Rohit Sharma's men will certainly not want it that way. India received some encouraging signals from their match against Pakistan, and they would want to build on them ahead of the business end of this tournament and much sterner assays in the waiting.
Pakistan pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf had reduced India to 66 for 4 by the 15th over. At that point, India's worries might have been accentuated by the fact that they have a jelly middle-order. Ishan Kishan was playing the first match of his career at No. 5 in ODIs and Hardik Pandya never really fitted the bill of a firefighter.
However, both Kishan and Pandya overcame their personal predicaments to amass 138 runs for the fifth wicket, cornerstone of India's eventual 266. Kishan was particularly impressive, as his forte is being a dashing top-order batsman. So, there was that hint of doubt whether Kishan would be able to make the necessary adjustments to his batting and approach to suit the No. 5 slot.
Ishan Kishan makes a compelling case for the 2023 World Cup:
He excelled on both the counts. As a top-order batter Kishan was susceptible to pacers who could move the ball around. Instead of trusting his defence, Kishan's method to get out of the cage was being aggressive. But here he had to be defensive. Rauf, Afridi and Naseem Shah tested his fortitude but for once Kishan showed that he can offer a scratch.
Nepal do not have the quality of Pakistan, but Kishan would like to have a go at them and add some more runs under his belt to boost his new profile.
Similarly, the management will also welcome the composure Pandya showed while playing second fiddle to Kishan, and the seamless shifting of gears the all-rounder did after the left-hander's dismissal. The adaptability and the no-egotistical methods of Pandya would have pleased the think-tank no end.
Even though the stuttering effort of their top four – Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer – against Pakistan pacers could be treated as an aberration, the management would want them to get into ODI mode at the earliest.
Chance for Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to get some runs under their belt:
Rohit and Kohli were rested for the ODIs against the West Indies, while Shreyas Iyer is making his return after an injury lay-off. Nepal might just give the trio the perfect opposition to earn some valuable game time and runs.
However, the team top brass might be a tad disappointed because the bowlers never got a chance to test their skills against a quality opponent in Pakistan. They would have been eager to see how Jasprit Bumrah responded to the task of bowling 10 overs and fielding the length of 50 overs.
His performance would have been be keenly monitored against Nepal but the pace spearhead is unavailable for the game due to personal reasons. Nepal, who lost to Pakistan by 238 runs in the tournament opener, would be eager to mask their lack of cricketing pedigree with their enthusiasm.
Their biggest hope to make some impact in the match will be leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and captain Rohit Paudel. But in the real world, they will be more than happy to limit the damage to the minimum against a cricketing powerhouse like India.
Teams (from): India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Sanju Samson (travelling reserve).
Nepal: Rohit Paudel (captain), Kushal Bhurtel, Aasif Sheikh, Bhim Sharki, Kushal Malla, Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gulshan Jha, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Lalit Rajbanshi, Pratish GC, Mousom Dhakal, Sundeep Jora, Kishore Mahato, Arjun Saud.