In Stats: Hong Kong Openers Make Unconvincing India Sweat
It wouldn’t be too much to expect team India to dominate a team like Hong Kong. However, it didn’t go as planned.
As expected, Team India got the better of Hong Kong in their opening fixture of the Asia Cup 2018. India were expected to win convincingly; but that wasn’t to be as they were made to toil. Surprisingly put in to bat – surprising because of the extreme temperatures which were when the match began – Team India posted 285/7 and then restricted their opponents Hong Kong for 259/8 to win by 26 runs.
Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu were the standout performers with the bat for Team India, while the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav again won it for India. Debutant Khaleel Ahmed made an impressive start to his career, picking up 3 for 48.
For Hong Kong, off-spinner Kinchit Shah returned with figures of 3/39 to be his team’s most successful bowler, while the opening pair of Nizakat Khan and Anushuman Rath posted half-centuries and stitched together what would be Hong Kong’s best partnership in ODIs.
While the Team India management might give it a positive spin by saying the players got much needed match-practice, are they being honest? Did they want to be put through such a workout? Did they find answers to any of the questions for which they had to find answers? The answer is a resounding ‘No’! Here’s why …
Below-Par Batting Performance
It wouldn’t be too much to expect Team India to dominate a team like Hong Kong, who are challenged by limited talent, exposure and experience. However, that didn’t quite happen as Team India managed to score under a run-a-ball in their 50 overs.
In normal circumstances, a total of 285-7 would be rated as competitive. Not if the batting team in question is India – who are challenging England for the number one ranking, and the opponent is Hong Kong, who only have ODI status for this tournament. Team India were largely unconvincing in their innings; despite having wickets in hand, India never really showed the intent to dominate the opposition – this despite having wickets in hand. In the first 30 overs of the innings, India lost only two wickets – yet the scoring rate was only a modest 5.43.
And then in the final ten overs of the innings – with eight wickets in hand and when the need was to step on the accelerator - India lost wickets in a heap to what can be termed a below-par total.
India’s Questionable Selections
India’s win on Tuesday should not mask the team management’s questionable selections. There have been several questionable selections by the Indian team management this year – in South Africa and in England – and that has continued in this tournament too. Several of the first-choice players such as KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah should have played on Tuesday – allowing them the opportunity to get acclimatised to conditions in Dubai. What better way for the players to ease into difficult and different conditions than play against a team like Hong Kong?
Now, as a result of their poor selection, Team India face a quandary before the match against Pakistan on Wednesday. India fielded Ambati Rayudu at number three, who announced his return to the team with a fluent and confident 70-ball 60. Now, does he continue at number three for the rest of the tournament, or will KL Rahul occupy that position in the match against Pakistan? What about Dinesh Karthik, who has now batted at number four in India’s last two ODIs?
Similarly on the bowling front, India gave the likes Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed a go against Hong Kong, when the likes of Bumrah and Pandya should have been given the chance to get used to conditions and the heat. Result? Not only did Bumrah and Pandya not get the opportunity to get used to the heat and the conditions, but India also ended up allowing the Hong Kong openers to stitch together a 174-run partnership – the highest partnership for a non-Test team against India.
Dhawan Finds White-Ball Form Instantly
This piece wouldn’t be fair and complete if a word of appreciation wasn’t written for Shikhar Dhawan. The left-hander gets plenty of flack for his repeated failures in red ball cricket – and is generally the first in the Test match side to get the axe; but he doesn’t get the same level of appreciation for his success in white ball cricket.
The regular Indian captain Virat Kohli generally hogs headline spaces with his repeated match-winning performances, as a result of which Dhawan’s white ball exploits generally get pushed into the shadows. The left-hander had a wretched Test series in England, yet in his first innings in the Asia Cup – in trying conditions and sweating profusely even before a ball had been bowled – Dhawan applied himself to score his 14th ODI century. The numbers below illustrate how good Dhawan has been in the 50-over format.
It needs to be understood and appreciated that for a player of Dhawan’s stature, it could have been very easy to be content with a half-century and not convert it to three figures. But despite the temperatures touching the 42-degree mark, the left-hander persevered, motored on and converted the start into a three-figure score.
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