India went into the tournament as clear favorites despite captain Virat Kohli opting out to manage the workload. Rohit Sharma, India’s limited overs icon, captained the Indian team in his stead. It wasn’t just the Kohli’s workload that Indian management were worried about. It showed when they played overall 18 players across six matches with 2 debuts - Khaleel Ahmed and Deepak Chahar.
This was a good opportunity for India to test their bench strength and for players, especially in the middle order, to cement their places for the ICC World Cup 2019.
In the absence of a few key bowlers India started the campaign nervously against Hong Kong - a side that lost the ODI status a few months back. India’s experience and a good bowling performance by debutant Khaleel Ahmed aided by the sparkling century by Shikhar Dhawan helped them avoid the embarrassment.
The scare against Hong Kong proved to be just the wakeup call India needed before their biggest game in the tournament the next day against Pakistan. And they woke up all right for it was a non-contest as India beat Pakistan by 8 wickets.
In super fours, India clinched easy victory against Bangladesh and made a mockery of Pakistan again to win by 9 wickets. Having already qualified for the finals India rested a few players including both openers against Afghanistan. KL Rahul, Deepak Chahar (debut), Manish Pandey and Sidharth Kaul got a chance to play. This match proved to be their toughest yet in the tournament.
Mohammad Shahzad shook India up with a blistering knock of 124 and helped Afghanistan reach 252. Then, after 110 runs opening partnership the fragile Indian middle order collapsed chasing a target of 253. With India needing just 1 run with 2 balls to go with one wicket in hand, Ravindra Jadeja, who had valiantly brought India back in the game, attempted a heave against Rashid Khan that resulted in his dismissal with the scores level.
It was the first tie in the Asia cup ever. It proved to be the only match in the Asia Cup 2018 that India could not win, and the only one where they lost all 10 wickets.
Kedar Jadhav was the unlikely hero in the tournament picking wickets when needed. He tightened the screws against Pakistan and was responsible to initiate a collapse in the finals when Bangladesh were off to a very good start and were running pretty at 120 without loss batting first. And if this was not enough, he later came back to complete a nerveless last-ball finish to clinch the trophy despite the hamstring injury that did not allow him to move much. This was the sixth time that India won the Asia Cup.
Performances from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who was also the Man of the Series, cemented the fact that these two are the best openers India have and there is no reason that should change until the upcoming world cup in 2019.
The spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav proved yet again that they are the best choice for spinners for India in limited overs format. Much improved performance from Ravindra Jadeja with the ball and handy cameos with the ball much give Indian selectors something to think about while selecting the spinners for India in for the World Cup.
It looks like the middle order woes continue though. The middle order did not get much chance since the Indian openers were prolific. And when they did, they failed to capitalize. Even Dhoni looked out of touch. India will need to solidify their middle order.
Kohli will eventually return and Dhoni has been prolific behind the wickets. That leaves a couple of spots up for grab in the middle order. We will have to see who out of Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul, and Kedar Jadhav finally make it to the mix for middle order batting positions for the ODI World Cup in 2019.
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