The Asia Cup returns to the mix after it was cancelled in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another change this year in the Asia Cup is its format. The last Asia Cup which happened in India was in 50 over format, but owing to the T20 World Cup in the 4th quarter of this year, the tournament format has been changed to T20.
When it comes to the Asia Cup, one match that is discussed the most is the clash between two arch rivals, India and Pakistan. Both countries have a long-standing history in the game. Whenever these two teams face each other, it's like the world comes to a standstill and all attention is on this game.
With the Asia Cup approaching soon, let's look at the probable playing XI of Team India and Pakistan for big clash.
India's Probable XI
When we talk about Indian openers, one name that is a de facto selection is Rohit Sharma. Rohit Sharma, the Indian captain, will have a major role to play in this upcoming Asia Cup. Rohit Sharma has had decent success against Pakistan. The Indian captain will be responsible for providing India with a good start against Pakistan's new ball bowlers.
Now coming to his opening partner, one name which perfectly fits is KL Rahul. Rahul has a phenomenal track record as opener. The wicketkeeper-batter can easily switch gears in no time, giving his captain much-needed time to settle in. KL Rahul, before getting injured, was in terrific form in the IPL, where he carried his team, Lucknow Super Giants to knockout stage in their first season itself. Another advantage of having KL Rahul in the top order is that he can provide stability in a case of collapse and is capable of holding on from one end.
Coming into the middle-order, the first name which pops up is Virat Kohli. Kohli has been the backbone of Indian cricket. He has carried this Indian team on many occasions, especially against Pakistan. He was the only standout batsman in their loss to Pakistan in last year's 2021 T20 World Cup. Despite not being in his best form, Virat's record against Pakistan can not be ignored.
At No. 4, there is no one better than Suryakumar Yadav. SKY was in terrific form in the recently concluded T20I series against England. He was the highest run-getter with 171 runs, which included a fantastic century. Surya, throughout his international T20 career, has played at a strike rate of 140 plus.
At No.5, India might see a change as all-rounder Hardik Pandya might walk out to bat. Pandya has his own comeback story. His comeback journey started with IPL 2022. He led his team, Gujarat Titans, to their maiden IPL title. Since then, Hardik has returned to the India team and has not looked back. He has scored 230 runs with the bat and has taken 6 wickets with the ball at crucial moments in the game.
Hardik has the ability to handle the middle overs well and can unleash himself towards the end of the innings.
At 6, this might surprise you, but expect veteran Dinesh Karthik to take up that position. The Indian team has been looking for a proper finisher for ages. Their search finally comes to an end in the form of Dinesh Karthik. Karthik is that player who the opposing team doesn't want to come out in the 16th over as he is very much capable of turning the game from the get-go. Karthik behind gloves is also an added advantage to spinners owing to vast experience in international cricket. He can fulfil the MSD role where the legendary No.7 used to guide the spinners from the back, which allowed them to flourish.
At 7, Ravindra Jadeja automatically fits in. The former CSK captain provides the Indian team with much needed solidity in that role. Jadeja has evolved as a batsman and is capable of either going from ball to ball or settling in and rotating strike in the event of a total collapse of the top order. With the ball, Jadeja can be very economical and keep up the pressure, allowing the other bowlers to snatch wickets.
Coming to Indian bowlers, it seems quite evident which four bowlers will be picked. Harshal Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuvzendra Chahal.
At no. 8, Harshal Patel seems like a perfect fit. Patel is the most improved cricketer in recent years. He has been a consistent performer. He has developed various skills as a bowler and has a knack for picking wickets at crucial stages. He has been brilliant in recent series, including 4/25 against South Africa.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was totally out of contention in the last T20 World Cup. Since then, Bhuvi has had a terrific IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Since returning to the Indian setup, the bowler has picked up 12 wickets in 5 matches (3 against South Africa and 2 against Ireland).
Jasprit Bumrah is the master of this format and will be the leader of the pace attack.
Yuzvendra Chahal is the perfect choice for the spinner. He has been in brilliant form and his 4-over spell will be crucial against the Pakistan batters who are known to play spin well.
Pakistan's Probable XI
The opening combination that troubled India in the last World Cup will once again be ready to repeat history. Babar Azam is all set to lead Pakistan from the top. The Pakistan captain is currently the no. 1 ranked batsman in the T20Is.
His opening partner, Mohammad Rizwan, who is equally explosive and dangerous upfront, will look to set the tone for this upcoming Asia Cup alongside his captain.
At No.3, the aggressive Fakhar Zaman looks like the ideal candidate for Men in Green. Zaman has been outstanding throughout the Pakistan Super League. His aggressive nature and gameplay might come in handy against opposition like India.
At no.4, Haider Ali might get called up. Ali has been in decent form and in the PSL too, he was a mainstay for his team, Peshawari Zamani.
At no.5, Khushdil Shah is the perfect fit. Shah is the perfect all-rounder that any team needs. He can play both roles, being the aggressor and also being an innings builder in the case of collapse.
At no.6, Mohammad Nawaz seems a perfect choice. The all-rounder has proved himself performance by performance. He has chipped in with decent contributions whenever needed as he has been a game changer with both bat and ball for Pakistan.
At 7, Shadab Khan has been a game changer for Pakistan. He originally started as a leg spinner but has over the years become a fine all-rounder. His batting skills have been proven along with his bowling ones too.
Pakistan's bowling has always been their strong point in the game. Pakistan continues to produce world-class pacers in every era.
At No.8, Pakistan was in search of someone who could bowl as well as bat and tonk the ball. Pakistan's search seems to have come to an end after spotting Mohamed Wasim JR. The right-arm pacer has got 17 wickets in 11 games so far at an average of 15.88. Wasim Jr. is very handy with the bat as well.
At 9, 10, and 11 will come the lethal trio of Pakistan bowlers which rattled India last time- Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, and Harris Rauf. Harris Rauf has been the most dangerous bowler in Pakistan's ranks. He can consistently bowl those Yorkers at a pace of 140 kph.
Shaheen Afridi is one such left-arm pacer who has troubled the Indian batsmen the most. He singles handily destroyed the Indian top order the last time these two giants met. .
Hasan Ali, last year, was an integral part of Pakistan's setup. He took 25 wickets in the 17 games he played in 2021 and will be crucial against India as well.