The last few days have seen plenty of number-crunching. But, Pakistan’s pulse-pounding victory over Bangladesh on Tuesday quashed every other scenario that sought to identify Sri Lanka’s opponent in the final.
Such premature hypothesising could have been nerve-wracking, and India, at least on the face of it, didn’t seem to have fallen for the numerical trap. That approach must have sure saved it some heartbreak.
On Tuesday morning, the eve of its Asia Cup duel against Afghanistan, the team’s two-hour long practice session didn't betray any edginess.
Training in earnest
There was nothing out of character in India’s training. Like always, there was a spot of football that they indulged in to set things in motion. The ribbing and bantering followed suit. Then, the batsmen proceeded to the nets, in batches of two, to face Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Ishwar Pandey. Cheteshwar Pujara, too, lined up to bowl his leg-breaks.
Skipper Virat Kohli was content to work on his curtailed-drives and back-foot pushes as he received throw-downs from fielding coach Trevor Penney. Ravindra Jadeja appeared to be itching to get a few of those himself. Penney told him, however, he had to wait until Shikhar Dhawan finished his.
Dinesh Karthik was put through a rigorously acrobatic routine by strength and conditioning specialist V.P. Sudarshan that had him leap, roll, and run. Karthik was also seen in an elaborately-intense conversation with
Kohli even as Jadeja — in one of his prankish moments — brought his bat perilously close to his captain’s face making mock attempts at fly-swatting.
At the other end of the National Cricket Academy ground, Ashwin practised the lusty hits, honing his skills against balls that weren’t in his strike-zone.
‘Journey of learning’
In a completely different end of the spectrum, Afghanistan will continue to enjoy its “journey of learning” as the team’s coach Kabir Khan put it after being mauled by Sri Lanka on Monday. Its bowling has tested all the teams at some point.
You wouldn’t know if it’s an exercise in gamesmanship or otherwise, but Kabir said the Indians would be under a lot of pressure to win. “Obviously, they are going to come hard at us. They don’t want to lose to us because if they do, they are going to be in deep trouble.”
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (capt.), Varun Aaron, R. Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (capt.), Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Fazal Niazai, Hamid Hassan, Hamza Hotak, Karim Sadiq, Mirwais Ashraf, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Nawroz Mangal, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari and Shapoor Zadran.
Play starts at 1.30 p.m. IST.