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Narrow defeat to Pak has put India slightly on back foot

Rohit and his men now have to win against Sri Lanka and then Afghanistan to keep their hopes alive in the Asia Cup title clash.

S S Ramaswamy | New Delhi |

India vs Sri Lanka: The narrow loss on Sunday night to arch-foes Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium has left Rohit Sharma and his men with the onerous task of winning both their remaining two round robin matches and stay in the hunt for the September 11 Asia Cup title clash.

Following their five-wicket defeat on the penultimate ball of the high-scoring battle against Pakistan, which was the reverse of India’s group stage win over their bitter rivals, Rohit and his men have to win against Sri Lanka on Tuesday and then Afghanistan on September 8 to keep their hopes alive.

India vs Sri Lanka, crucial for India

One more defeat and it will be curtains for India. This do-or-die situation will obviously put extra pressure on the players.

On paper, India should be able to cross their next two hurdles, but T20 is a format prone to throw in many surprises. The toss would be an important factor as chasing a target looks to be the better option presently.

Problems for the team in upcoming India vs Sri Lanka match

India have a few problems in team selection to take care of, but if we talk about the positives from the loss there is none bigger than the sort of touch former captain Virat Kohli showed in making a forceful 60 off 44 balls, showing glimpses of his old, lofty standards of striking the ball smoothly and with minimum effort.

But for Kohli’s mini-masterpiece, India would have ended up with a much smaller total than they made, 181for 7.

Kohli’s take on India vs Sri Lanka

Kolhi later mentioned the good effects of the total break that he took coming into the tournament at the post-media media conference. “I’ve taken some time away to put things in perspective. I need to enjoy the game. I can’t put so much pressure of expectation on myself that I am not able to express myself,” he said while lauding the team spirit that has made his return exciting.

“I am absolutely loving playing at the moment again and I am feeling good with the way I am batting,” the former captain added, indicating his positive frame of mind.

Kohli apart, the batting did not click as a unit after a pulsating start given by captain Rohit and his companion K L Rahul.

Both Rohit and Rahul departed in the space of seven balls as Pakistan fought their way back into the game.

The other major plus for India was the fine bowling by rookie wrist spinner Ravi Bishnoi who should have ended up with two wickets instead of 1 for 26 but for the costly, dropped dolly by Arshdeep Singh to give a new lease of life to Asif Ali late in the successful run chase by Pakistan.

Bishnoi’s splendid effort was in contrast to his senior leg-spin partner Yuzvendra Chahal (1-43) who could even lose his spot in the eleven against Lanka.

India would be pondering on whether to include seasoned off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin or replacement player Axar Patel in place of Chahal against the Emerald Islanders. The team’s chief coach Rahul Dravid sent out a mixed point of view on Ashwin’s suitability to make the eleven on the eve of the match against Pakistan.

“We’re lucky to have one of the world’s best in our side. We’ve obviously got someone in our larger squad who is one of the best in the world and we’re lucky to have that,” said Dravid. He had conceded that the present thinking worldwide was loaded in favour of wrist spinners at the cost of right arm off spin bowlers.

“Wrist spinners have become very valuable in (the) T20 format for obvious reasons. The fact is they can spin it both ways. It doesn’t expose them to the right-handers or left-handers like, say, it does for the finger spinners. And maybe it’s just a cycle, just a phase.

“I’m trying to think around. Bangladesh plays Mehidy Hasan a little bit. We played (the) West Indies recently and they didn’t have an off-spinner. Moeen Ali plays a little bit for England. There are a few around, it’s not like they’ve all completely disappeared.

“We’ve got one. We’re lucky if we need to play him (as) we know we have the quality and someone like Ash can step in if required,” said Dravid, somewhat ambiguously.

That brings us back to the critical question, whether Chahal should be retained in spite of his less than impressive displays in both games against Pakistan or it should be a toss-up between Ashwin and Axar.