As was the case for the majority of matches in the Super Four stage, the Asia Cup final proved to be an intense and hard-fought affair as India laid their hands on a seventh title with a last-ball victory over Bangladesh.
The thrilling win marked an unbeaten campaign for Rohit Sharma and his men who beat arch-rivals Pakistan twice on their way to the title.
While the crown of Asia’s best is no small feat given the heightened competition and diminishing gaps between the teams, the tournament was also an opportunity for the Men in Blue to fine tune their preparations for the 2019 World Cup in England.
As such, we take a look at the three things India can take away from their Asia Cup triumph.
MIDDLE-ORDER CONUNDRUM STILL UNANSWERED
Before the start of the tournament, Rohit Sharma had stated that the number four and six batting positions were up for grabs. The two positions have, in fact, been up for grabs for some time now with several players being auditioned in the roles but none have been able to stake a permanent claim.
Those questions still remain unanswered despite India’s unbeaten campaign in the UAE. With Virat Kohli being rested, the opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit was in such fine form throughout the tournament that the middle-order was barely tested.
On the rare occasion when the middle-order was indeed tested in the games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it failed to really stand up to the occasion with some unconvincing displays from the batsmen concerned.
MS Dhoni’s move to number four did not really pay off while Dinesh Karthik blew hot and cold. Manish Pandey failed in his single outing while Kedar Jadhav did not get much chance to make a difference.
The middle-order remains a pressing concern and it is one the team management will need to figure out quickly in the coming months.
JADEJA CAN STILL PLAY A ROLE
While Hardik Pandya’s tournament was cruelly cut short with an unfortunate back injury, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Ravindra Jadeja.
A poor showing in last year’s Champions Trophy in England along with a wicketless display in the tour of the West Indies had spelled the end of Jadeja’s stay in India’s limited-overs setup.
With the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal establishing themselves as India’s frontline pairing since, the doors seemed well and truly shut for Jadeja.
However, a fine individual display in the Test series against England coupled with injuries to Pandya and Axar Patel meant that the all-rounder was flown in as a late replacement.
It is an opportunity that Jadeja has grasped with both hands after picking up seven wickets in four matches at an economical rate. His sensational bit of fielding in the final to run-out Mohammad Mithun summed up the added abilities apart from his bowling and batting that he brings to the table.
While Kuldeep and Chahal remain the go-to spin options for India, Jadeja might have just worked himself back into contention for a spot in the World Cup squad as the third spinner.
RAYUDU SHOWS HIS WORTH
While the Asia Cup turned out to be a boon for Jadeja’s World Cup hopes, it also reignited the international career of Ambati Rayudu.
The top-order batsman had not played an ODI for India since June, 2016, but a stupendous showing with the bat for champions Chennai Super Kings in the IPL this year had propelled him back into the squad for the tour of England.
Unfortunately for the 33-year-old, a failed yo-yo test meant his England ticket was cut. With Kohli being rested after his England sojourns, Rayudu was given a path back into the team and he has not looked back since.
Though he might have failed in the final, he showed what he brings to the table with two fluent half-centuries against Hong Kong and Afghanistan, respectively. With a career-batting average now approaching 50, Rayudu deserves to remain in the setup even when Kohli returns.
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