Heavyweights India take on underdogs Hong Kong in Asia Cup T20 match in Dubai

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Indian players celebrate after their win in the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup against Pakistan in Dubai, UAE, on Sunday. AP

Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter

The heavyweights India will look to seal their berth in the Super 4 with a victory over perennial makeweights Hong Kong in their Asia Cup match in Dubai on Wednesday.

Top two teams from each group will advance to the Super 4 and both India and Pakistan are likely to move to the second stage, barring any catastrophe as the third team in the group are minnows Hong Kong.

After beating Pakistan in the nail-biting opening match, India have already put their one foot in the next round. With the two-point cushion in their kitty, India may try their bench strength against Hong Kong.

With the T20 World Cup barely two months away, India have a few holes to plug in. Asia Cup is the perfect time to try their strength in the run-up to the showpiece event. Their biggest concern is the form of the star batsman Virat Kohli.

Kohli has been struggling with the form and has not scored a century for 1000 days in any format of the game. He is getting off to good starts but not converting them into a big score.

With Kohli struggling, the number three slot, which is considered as the most important batting position, remains an issue to be fixed before the World Cup.

India are also looking to find the right opening partnership. They have tried different permutations and combinations but have failed to find a permanent opening pair, who can set the tone for the rest of the innings.

Rohit has opened with Ishan Kishan, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, who was surprisingly omitted from the Asia Cup squad. Dhawan had quite a few big scores in the series against Zimbabwe.

India had rested frontline players for the Zimbabwe and West Indies series. They also tried Shubman Gill with Dhawan and the pair gave a decent start. But all the openers have struggled against the big teams like South Africa and England.

Rahul was dismissed for a golden duck against Pakistan and in such a scenario, explosive wicket-keeper batsman Rishab Pant can open the innings with Rohit against Hong Kong.

If Pant comes in, Dinesh Karthik may have to make way. Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya will consolidate the middle-order.

Ravichandran Ashwin may also be tried along with Jadeja as Yuzvendra Chahal failed to pick up wickets against Pakistan. Rahul is also likely to bowl a few overs as part time spinner if need be.

In the pace attack, quartet of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan and Hardik are likely to continue.

For Hong Kong it will be a good learning curve. They have a golden chance to rub shoulders with the big boys and get some match. They can fancy their chances as they gave India a brief scare in the 2018 Asia Cup, eventually losing the game by 23 runs.

Hong Kong team is largely dominated by the expats from the sub-continent. Expats from both India and Pakistan make a big chunk of the Hong Kong team.

They will pin hopes on captain Nizakat Khan and batsman Babar Hayat. Nizakat has a good international experience, having played 20 ODIs and 50 T20Is, he looks the best bet to lead the team.

Hayat has also played 22 ODIs and 32 T20Is. He boasts an average of around 29 in T20s, where a score 30 is considered as good. Kinchit Shah can be their first-choice wicket-keeper, if they choose to go with experience. He has played 40 T20Is.

 

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