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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Amidst the scorching heat in the UAE, the atmosphere in the Dubai International Stadium will go a couple of notches higher when the greatest rivalry in the world of cricket resumes yet again this evening.

However, the famed top-order batting will look for course correction while the bowling attack could be rejigged as the Men in Blue will aim to beat arch-rivals Pakistan again and maintain their momentum in the ongoing Asia Cup.

Comeback man KL Rahul has been completely out of sorts since his return after a lengthy injury layoff. He got out for a first-ball duck against Pakistan and in the match against Hong Kong, he was struggling to time the ball, resulting in a painstaking 36 off 39 balls. 

India would also want skipper Rohit Sharma to get a big score after indifferent outings in two matches, which deviated from the side’s ultra-attacking batting approach. Virat Kohli is also taking his time to come back into form and his sluggish approach against Pakistan could hurt India’s chances.

In the bowling attack, there will be question marks over Avesh Khan’s inconsistency. Against Pakistan, he had figures of 1/19 in his two overs. But against Hong Kong, he was erratic while conceding 53 runs in his four overs. The team management must revamp the bowling attack against a formidable Pakistan team, especially in death overs.

Moreover, with no Ravindra Jadeja for the remainder of the tournament, whose promotion to number four against Pakistan worked well, India has a selection query to address. Jadeja’s absence is seriously hurting team balance. The team management needs to see whether they will still retain Rishabh Pant in the playing eleven for his left-handedness or get either Deepak Hooda or Axar Patel, a like-for-like replacement of Jadeja, in the playing eleven.

While the slow Dubai track is creating problems for batters, the inclusion of both Avesh and Arshdeep Singh in the team raises a question mark.
Under this circumstance, restrictive bowling of Axar can be an option. Axar can also bat explosively lower down the order. Hooda as a batting all-rounder and Ravichandran Ashwin as a bowling all-rounder can also be tried out.

Pakistan, on the other side, cruised into Super Four stage with a 155-run thrashing of Hong Kong. Their pacers and spinners got wickets while Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman got fifties before Khushdil Shah applied finishing touches. But their concerns still remain about the top-order.

There's no doubt about Rizwan, Zaman and captain Babar Azam achieving a major chunk of success while chasing, but batting first is not their strongest suit, especially when the top three use a lot of deliveries, leaving little time for someone like a Khushdil, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali to apply the finishing touches.

Asia Cup 2022 is now at a stage where no team is lightweight or can be underestimated. One loss and chances of getting into the finale on September 11 will be in trouble. India and Pakistan are well aware that even one wrong move in Super Four can jeopardise their well-laid plans for the final.
 

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