Kapil Dev backs India to win Asia Cup in UAE despite Virat Kohli's absence

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Former India captain Kapil Dev.

Former India captain Kapil Dev insists India are the favourites in the upcoming Asia Cup even though they don’t have regular captain and prolific batsman Virat Kohli in the side.

Rohit Sharma will lead the Indians in the UAE in a tournament also featuring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong starting September 15 in Dubai.

India lost their most recent ODI series in England and enter the Asia Cup with a few questions about their finishing skills. They were also defeated emphatically by Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final and now will be without their main batsman in Kohli in the UAE.

However, former India captain and coach Dev said India are still the better team and are favourites in the Asia Cup.

“I feel yes (India are favourites). On paper, India one-on-one is far better than any other team,” Dev told Sport360 in Dubai. He was present as Channel 2 Group announced their partnership with the Asia Cup where they will be providing live commentary.

The UAE is like a second home for Pakistan who have been playing in the country for the best part of a decade. They have an incredible record on the slow and dry surfaces of the UAE and have a full-strength squad to chose from. Moreover, the Champions Trophy final win is still fresh in the minds of Pakistan players like Hasan Ali. However, Dev believes a lot of time has passed since that result and added Pakistan can’t be seen as the favourites.

“I don’t think Pakistan are favourites. I don’t think past results will have a bearing on this tournament. These days you move on in life. No one keeps that in mind for more than six to eight months,” Dev added.

The legendary all-rounder believes the presence of wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the India line-up gives them a big edge as Pakistan and some other teams haven’t faced them.

“With a new wrist spinner it takes time to understand them. They are wicket-taking bowlers. They can be very effective and that is what a team looks for.”

OPPORTUNITY LOST IN ENGLAND

The Indian team is staring down the barrel in England at the moment, having lost the Pataudi Trophy 3-1 with the prospect of finishing the series 4-1 at The Oval.

India had golden opportunities to win the Birmingham and Southampton Tests but the world No1 team squandered them. Dev said that India must learn from the mistakes.

“Winning didn’t come (in England) but otherwise they played good cricket. They had chances where they could have won the series but they didn’t grab those chances. And this is what cricket is all about. Whoever has better nerves that moment (wins),” he added.

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Ravindra Jadeja should now be picked as India's main Test spinner ahead of Ravi Ashwin

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Ravindra Jadeja.

India were handicapped by the injury to off-spinner Ravi Ashwin in the fouth Test against England at Southampton and that cost them the series.

On a pitch conducive to spinners and where England’s Moeen Ali scalped nine on the Test, Ashwin struggled to land the ball in the same area consistently as he struggled with a hip injury he carried from the third Test. Why the Indian team decided to pick an unfit Ashwin in a decider is a pertinent question but the fact is Ashwin aggravated his injury and India lost the Test by 60 runs and with it the Pataudi Trophy.

It was believed left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja would have been a better option as on wickets that offer sharp turn, he is a lot more lethal than regular off-spinners as he has a strong action and can get the ball to zip off the surface.

That belief was proven to be true in the fifth and final Test at The Oval as Jadeja showed the management what could have been. In the first innings, Jadeja kept a tight line and got the ball to turn appreciably at times to pick up four wickets from 30 overs while giving away just 79 runs. For comparison, Ashwin took one wicket from 37 overs in Southampton while giving away 84 runs on a pitch that was borderline minefield.

Then with India down and almost out in their first innings in London, Jadeja rose to the occasion and in the company of debutant Hanuma Vihari (56) dug India out of a hole and took them from 160-6 to 292 with an unbeaten 86.

His six down the ground off James Anderson with the second new ball was a sight to behold and spoke as much about his intent as it did about his ability.

Ravindra Jadeja (l) and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ravindra Jadeja (l) and Ravichandran Ashwin.

Jadeja offers a strong bowling action, consistency in line and length, world-class fielding skills and quick runs down the order. Ashwin, as good as he is, does not exude consistency. He has chopped and changed his action, switched to leg-spin bowling, and has failed to remain fit during what should have been the defining series of his career.

Moving forward, India should look to give Jadeja the first crack when it comes to away Tests. There will generally be just one spot for spinner, especially when India tour Australia later in the year, and the character that Jadeja has show in London this week will be a lot more valuable than the uncertainty that surrounds Ashwin’s brilliance.

What also works in Jadeja’s favour is he is fitter than Ashwin and can be trusted to play the holding role. All these factors should put the left-arm tweaker ahead of Ashwin in the pecking order for away Tests.

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Ball changes create drama on day three of Oval Test

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Umpire Kumar Dharmasena checks the the ball on Day Three at The Oval.

The Indian team were left frustrated after two ball changes out of a total of three in the final session of Day Three of the final Test at The Oval left them with a less responsive cherry.

The Duke ball that India received for the second innings went out of shape after 20 overs and India demanded for a change of cherry. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena decided to change the ball after the older one was found to be out of shape.

However, the ‘new’ ball provided to the Indians turned out to be in poor condition. While the earlier ball the Indians had was out of shape, it had a good shine on one side and was moving considerably in the air and off the pitch. However the changed ball lacked any shine and was equally dull on both sides which meant hardly anything for the quicks to work with.

Captain Virat Kohli was visibly upset at being forced to bowl with a ball that was going to do nothing for his bowlers. He asked umpire Dharmasena to change the ball again but couldn’t do so.

And just as expected, the swing and seam died down completely.

Three overs later, the ball went out of shape again and India got the ball changed. The ‘newer’ ball produced a wicket first ball with Ravindra Jadeja landing the ball in the footmarks and bowling Moeen Ali through the gate. However, it was the same story when it came to the seamers as the ball pretty much went straight on.

Alastair Cook and Joe Root got to bat in the best conditions and push the lead towards 150. However, a third ball change close to stumps saw them receive a cherry with a much better shine and Jasprit Bumrah started to move the ball both ways immediately.

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