-By Rameej Akhtar
The men in blue will kick-start their Asia Cup 2018 journey against minnows Hong Kong in Dubai, UAE today.
In absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, India's 'Hitman' Rohit Sharma will lead the side and will start India's preparation for the upcoming World Cup (WC) in England which is less than 9 months away.
The Indian ODI team, which has been in red hot form lately, would want to get off in the tournament strongly and make a statement of their dominance but what remains to be seen is the team's struggle to fulfill the No.4 and No.6 batting spot, which has been an area of concern for the captain and team management for a long time now.
While the bowling line looks well balanced with left arm pacer K Khaleel Ahmed likely to make his debut, Jasprit Bumrah may be rested for this one following the rigorous series in England and before the big daddy of all cricket matches, India vs Pakistan on Wednesday.
However, India's main aim would be to get the middle order sorted before the big clash against Pakistan and ultimately the upcoming WC. The team's only fixed spots in the batting line up belong to the openers and the former captain, MS Dhoni. The rest have massive opportunities to grab in a team which has a pool of talented and stylish batsmen.
Kedar Jadhav is likely to retain his No.6 spot while Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu will fight it out for the No.4 spot. The No.3 spot will be taken by K L Rahul in absence of Kohli and would want to cement his spot in the ODI set up through this opportunity in the Asia Cup but will face tough competition from the other wicket-keeper in the team, Dinesh Karthik.
Hardik Pandya, in all likeliness, is likely to retain his spot as the only all-rounder in the team unless the skipper decides to play another formidable pacer in Shardul Thakur and go in with six batsmen and five genuine bowlers.
The coach and captain is expected to go unchanged with the young duo of spin magicians, Kuldeev Yadav and Yuzevendra Chahal. And the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar into a team is not less than a delight for any captain or a team to be honest.
India should have an easy day at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium today. The match starts at 5 PM (IST).
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (C), Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Ambati Rayudu/Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (WK), Dinesh Karthik/Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed
(Featured Image – LatestLY)