Whether the organizers and other stakeholders agree or not, this 14th edition of the Asia Cup is nothing but a dress rehearsal of next year’s World Cup. As all the teams (apart from Hong Kong, who will not feature in 2019 World Cup) are building a settled squad keeping next year’s premier event mind, the 50-over version of the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provides an ideal opportunity for the team management to try out new combinations.

Well, from the Indian point of view, it is a perfect opportunity to work on their vulnerable middle-order. With no Virat Kohli in the batting line-up, these Asia Cup matches will be like an audition for the likes of KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, and Kedar Jadhav to keep themselves in the scheme of things of the selectors. India are still in the search of permanent No. 4 batsman in the limited-overs side. Hence, these youngsters should make the most of their chances.

Nevertheless, if we look at India’s most likely team combination, only three among Rahul, Rayudu, Karthik, and Jadhav are likely to feature in the starting XI against Hong Kong on Tuesday. In that case, Rayudu, who averages 50 in ODI cricket may take the No. 3 position. Remember, he was picked in England bound ODI team as well but dropped at the last moment failing to prove his fitness in the controversial Yo-Yo Test.

Considering his experience, Dinesh Karthik can be tried out at No. 4. With his touch-play, the Chennai boy can keep the scoreboard running in the middle-overs which actually is the primary requirement of a No. 4 batsman in the ODI format. Whereas Kedar Jadhav, who is making a comeback in the side after an injury, should be given the role of a finisher along with Hardik Pandya. Also, Jadhav can chip with his part-time off-spin as well. On these slow-low pitches, he can be more than handy with the ball.

Meanwhile, it looks like Pandey and Rahul have to wait for their turn. But as we move forward in this competition, they are likely to be tried out as well.    

Likely Indian XI against Hong Kong: Rohit Sharma(C), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (WK), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Khaleel Ahmed/Jasprit Bumrah.


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