The presence or absence of certain names always makes an impact but the narrative is almost always about the team and the atmosphere.
However in the Asia Cup, the India-Pakistan clash has one player right in the spotlight. And that is Pakistan left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir.
The left-arm quick made the 2017 Champions Trophy final all about himself as he snared Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in a terrific opening burst and broke India’s back to seal a 180-run win. But since that three-wicket effort, Amir’s ODI form has nosedived.
In eight ODIs since that stellar effort, Amir has picked up just three wickets. In his last three ODIs, Amir has failed to pick up a wicket and has looks well off his peak form.
With Amir in the team, talented quicks like Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi have been forced to sit on the sidelines. However, on the eve of the India clash, there are reports Amir might be rested and another left-arm quick given a chance.
Pakistan can seriously do without Mohammad Amir in the team. It would be so much better to give chance to an upcoming player in place of Amir.— Saba Saeed Sheikh (@sabassheikh) September 16, 2018
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed refused to confirm whether Amir will play and instead said the 26-year-old has been told he is a strike bowler and needs to do that job.
If by any chance Amir does not play, it would be music to the ears of India captain Rohit Sharma who has been troubled by the left-armer’s swing in ODIs and T20s.
Not only do India have to contend with a potent Pakistan pace attack, with out without Amir, they will have to do so with not a whole lot of practice under their belt.
The entire Indian team just had one full practice session before their clash against Hong Kong. Even in their tournament opener on Tuesday, India rested KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.
That means the first-choice XI will take on Pakistan with less than ideal preparation.
The other challenge for Rohit will be ensuring the team adapts quickly to playing conditions as not only is the weather harsh with temperature over 40 degrees Celsius, the pitch in Dubai has been slower than usual.
While the Indians did get to bat against Hong Kong, it wouldn’t have prepared them for the challenges which will be thrown by an array of Pakistan left-arm quicks, Hasan Ali and leg-spinner Shadab Khan.
Shikhar Dhawan finding form with a century against Hong Kong should have helped settle some nerves but Rohit and MS Dhoni failed to get any substantial batting under their belt on Tuesday.
However, when the coin goes up at toss time in Dubai on Wednesday, form and even preparation will be forgotten and passion will take over. Because it’s India-Pakistan.
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