Asia Cup 2018: India ready to tame heat and Hong Kong

It would be unlikely that the Indian cricketers, especially pace bowlers, will go full throttle on Wednesday considering that the match is going to be as good as a warm-up ahead of Thursday theatrics.

Rohit Sharma discusses a point with MS Dhoni during India's practice session.   -  PTI

Four days since Rohit Sharma touched down on the desert safari, the India captain finally had the full squad assembled for its first – and only – full training session ahead of opening the Asia Cup campaign against rookies Hong Kong.

But rather than preparing themselves for the possible challenges posed by the rank outsider, while training at the ICC Academy ground on Tuesday, it seemed that the Men in Blue seemed to be focussing on two vital aspects: to not think too far ahead about facing Pakistan on Thursday and to get used to the scorching heat in the Gulf.

The India captain was even asked about whether the heat or Hong Kong will pose a bigger challenge, to which Sharma, in charge with Virat Kohli absent for the assignment, smiled and came up with a long, typecast answer about how “every game is important”.

 

But the fact of the matter is the disparity between the two sides is so much that it may end being as a lop-sided game as Hong Kong's mauling by Pakistan on Monday night.

It would be unlikely that the Indian cricketers, especially pace bowlers, will go full throttle on Wednesday considering that the match is going to be as good as a warm-up ahead of Thursday theatrics.

More importantly, the India cricketers will be tested even more against Pakistan since they would be competing on successive days in conditions far from being ideal for outdoor sport.

However, it would be interesting to see India's top-six on Wednesday. After all, as India enters the final stretch of its preparations ahead of the next year's World cup, at least one middle-order slot is wide open.

 

 

It is likely that India will start the tournament with K.L. Rahul, Ambati Rayudu and Manish Pandey occupying the third, fourth and fifth positions, respectively, before Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Hardik Pandya come in as designated finishers.

Should India decide to try out another set of combinations, it has multiple options with Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik, both of whom also had a long stint in the nets on Tuesday, waiting in the wings.

READ: Rayudu plays down middle-order competition

While India may well try out different combinations, Hong Kong will be hoping to improve on its otherwise disappointing outing on Monday.

With the dynamics of international cricket, the minnow team isn't sure how long will it have to wait before getting a game against a top side in the world. And Anshuman Rath and Co. will be looking forward to staking a claim and justifying its qualification for the continental showdown.

Rath, the young captain, admitted that Hong Kong's batting unit just didn't put up a fight against Pakistan, as was evident in the fact that it could muster a meagre total of 116 runs.

The onus will be on him to lead from the front and set the tone for his team-mates should Hong Kong end up batting first yet again.

The squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Shikhar Dhawan (Vice-capt.) , K.L. Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (w.k.), Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Khaleel Ahmed.

Hong Kong: Anshuman Rath (Capt.), Aizaz Khan, Babar Hayat, Cameron McAulsan, Christopher Carter (w.k.), Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Arshad Mohammad, Kinchit Shah, Nadeem Ahmed, Raag Kapur, Scott McKechnie, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Khan, Aftab Hussain.