Despite the absence of Virat Kohli and the fact that their neighbours were in excellent form, few would have doubted India’s ability to retain their Asia Cup title before the 2018 edition of the tournament began. However, not many would have predicted a nail-biting final that went down to the very last ball and needed a man batting on one good leg to take the defending champions over the finish line. Sure, Rohit Sharma’s side claimed their seventh Asia Cup victory but several important lessons were also learned on the way.
1. The Middle Order Muddle
One thing that became clearly apparent throughout the tournament was India’s heavy reliance on their top order to fire. India is much more likely to score big when its openers come good, as evidenced by their Asia Cup display. Riding on the back of big scores from Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, India chased down targets with ease but when the middle order was exposed it was much more of a struggle.
The situation isn’t helped by the fact that there are about five talented players vying for two or three spots in the middle order, which causes a dearth of opportunities to showcase their abilities. With the openers set and Kohli set to take the number three spot when he returns to action, picking a settled middle order that delivers consistently remains the number one concern.
2. Possibly India’s Best Ever Bowling Attack
It’s a tall claim to make considering the outstanding bowlers that have played for India in the past, but it’s hard to think of a bowling attack this potent on all fronts. Every bowler seems to specialise in a particular skill while working together to create a lethal bowling unit that has aggression, skill, control and variety and the ability to win matches for India.
In addition to that, the Asia Cup also reminded us that the bench strength is decent as well!
3. No Room For Complacency
With the amount of cricket being played all over the world nowadays (at such a high level as well) does the ‘underdog’ even exist any more? There was a time not long ago when Bangladesh was looked on as a guaranteed win for India, but the Asia Cup showed that even teams like Hong Kong can give them a run for their money!
Often guilty of complacency (especially against opponents they’re expected to beat easily), this tournament should serve as a real eye-opener ahead of the tougher challenges that lie ahead.
4. An Eye On The 2019 World Cup
The 2018 Asia Cup served as a prime opportunity for several Indian players to stake their claim for a World Cup berth. Following his exploits with the ball and one-legged batting heroics in the final, Kedar Jadhav made the most of his chance, as did Ambati Rayudu. Watching the Indian selectors pick Jadhav, Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik in all the six games reassures Indian fans that next year’s World Cup in England features heavily in their plans as they aim to create a settled lineup.
India come away from the UAE with yet another Asia Cup title and plenty of food for thought!