Asia Cup 2023 | India’s top-order keen to decode the Shaheen Afridi riddle

The left-arm quick’s duels with Rohit and Kohli will be engrossing; Rahul and Bumrah set to return in place of Kishan and Shami; having a reserve day nullifies imminent rain threat

Updated - September 10, 2023 06:48 pm IST

Published - September 09, 2023 02:46 pm IST - Colombo

Skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli take a rest during a practice session ahead of the Super Fours match against Pakistan in the Asia Cup 2023, at R. Premadasa Stadium, in Colombo.

Skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli take a rest during a practice session ahead of the Super Fours match against Pakistan in the Asia Cup 2023, at R. Premadasa Stadium, in Colombo. | Photo Credit: ANI

Nuwan Senaviratne was the most sought-after member of the contingent by India’s batters over the last three two days. The left-arm throwdown specialist has been relentlessly trying all his angles and variations while trying his best to let the ball be released as similar to a lanky Pakistan left-arm pacer.

It’s understandable since Shaheen Shah Afridi has been the nemesis of the majority of top-order batters over the last few years. India is not an exception, with Afridi leading the Pakistan pace trio during the abandoned Asia Cup preliminary stage clash over the last weekend.

Cut to Sunday, weather permitting, Afridi’s duel against Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Co. is set to be revived, at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

No wonder then that all the India batters over the last couple of training sessions have been eager to have a bat against Senaviratne’s left-arm throws during India’s nets. All the top-order batters faced Nuwan on Friday night under lights.

With Saturday being an optional nets day, of the seven squad members who turned up — three batters who are set to feature in the XI had a go against Nuwan.

Shubman Gill, K.L. Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja had long stints against the left-armer, with head coach Rahul Dravid keeping a close eye on the proceedings. It will be interesting if India’s batters can actually find answers to the Afridi riddle on Sunday.

With the provision of a reserve day, an abandonment is all but ruled out, especially with the game to be continued on Monday from the point of suspension of Sunday. But India will be hoping to conquer Afridi and Co. and take a giant leap towards booking a place in the final.

Despite the debate over the wicketkeeper-batter’s slot, Rahul is set to be preferred for the role, thus marking his return to competitive cricket since May. Ishan Kishan, despite playing a stellar role, is set to make way for him.

Similarly, Mohammed Shami is again likely to miss out with Jasprit Bumrah having rejoined the squad after the birth of his son. Besides these two changes, India is unlikely to tinker around with its team that overcame Nepal last weekend in Pallekele.

Pakistan, on the other hand, will be eager to virtually qualify for the final with a win against India. Having thumped Bangladesh in the Super Four opener in Lahore earlier in the week, Babar Azam’s army is hoping to get India under the mat.

Potent attack

It will be interesting to see how the Pakistan batters fare — especially in a shortened game — against India’s potent bowling attack.

While the fans will be hoping for a full game, it is set to be a stop-and-start day. According to the weather report issued by Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology, “several spells of showers” are expected throughout Sunday.

The fans will be hoping for the dark clouds to dodge the Khettarama area to watch the rivalry to be truly revived ahead of the World Cup.


India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumraj, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Saud Shakeel, Tayyab Tahir (travelling reserve).

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