Indian players celebrate after the dismissal of Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan (not seen) during their Super 4 Asia Cup match in Dubai on Sunday. Reuters
Mohammed Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
A depleted India will seek to bounce back against a resurgent Sri Lanka on Tuesday after their loss against Pakistan in their Asia Cup Super-4 match in Dubai.
Both Lanka and Pakistan have won their respective matches of the Super 4 stage and are in comfortable position. If Lanka beat India, they will put one foot in the final as the top two finishers will play in the title showdown.
India will look to win both their remaining matches with big margins to avoid the jitters of going through run rate factor. They will also hope their arch-rivals Pakistan beat both Lanka and Afghanistan. A victory for either of them will make the situation more complex and put India’s chances in peril.
Pakistan ended India’s unbeaten run of eight matches. The men in blue had come into the tournament on the back of two series wins and won two straight matches in the Asia Cup before being beaten in the last match.
Indian have been plagued by several injury blows, which has jeopardized their campaign. Their pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was ruled of the Asia Cup before the tournament started.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also injured his knee and has been ruled out of the Asia Cup as well as the World Cup, which is one-and –half month away and will be played in Australia.
Avesh Khan became the latest victim as he was unwell and was dropped out of the squad for the Pakistan match. And his absence was felt badly as Pakistan chased down a target of 182 against a depleted bowling attack, missing Jadeja and Avesh.
After losing the first match in the Super 4 stage, India will have to win both the remaining matches against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan to keep their hopes of final alive.
The good news for India is that star batsman Virat Kohli seems to have regained his form. Kohli scored back-to-back fifties against Hong Kong and Pakistan. But captain Rohit Sharma and Rahul have failed to convert their starts into big scores.
They brought up the fifty partnership in just 4.3 overs against Pakistan but both of them failed to go past 30. Indian players are clicking in bits and pieces. If they want to regain the winning momentum they will have to play as unit and complement each other.
On the other hand, Lanka are brimming with the confidence after two straight wins. After a mauling against Afghanistan, Lanka bounced back superbly and notched up two victories in two consecutive matches.
Lanka chased down two big totals of 175 and 183 against Afghanistan and Bangladesh respectively. They will look to beat India and inch closer to the final berth.
A confident Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said they are prepared to take on India.
“The strategy will be the same. We will go into the match with a positive frame of mind. The morale of the team is high after two consecutive victories and the mood in the camp is upbeat,” said Shanaka in a pre-match conference.
He also played down the talks of India being under pressure after their defeat.
“India is a very strong team. They are in good form and playing good cricket of late. There is no reason why should they be under pressure after losing just one game,” he added.
“We are expecting a tough game against India. Virat is a great player and he is in good form. He was not converting his start into big scores earlier that was the problem. But now, he seems to have got back his touch and scoring big runs.
“Like I said earlier, ‘they are a very strong. They have a lot of experience playing in the IPL. They have the mindset of beating any team which come in their way bur we are also very well prepared. We got a different plan to execute tomorrow,”’ asserted the Lankan captain, played an important role in their victory over Bangladesh.
He scored a 33-ball 45 and shared 64 run partnership with Kusal Mendis to keep the chase alive and propel Lanka past the target.
“When it comes about Asian cricket, people generally talk about India and Pakistan. But we have a very strong team and I believe we can make it. I don’t mind what people say. Our focus is always on our game rather than paying heed towards the talk,” he added.