Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has said that even though the Rohit Sharma led Men in Blue remain one of the contenders to lift the Asia Cup 2018 title, it is Pakistan who should be favourites to win the tournament in what are quite familiar conditions for them in United Arab Emirates.
While Pakistan went on to simply roll past Hong Kong by 8 wickets, India opens up their campaign against the same opponent on Tuesday, September 18. On the other hand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, already through to the top 4 after beating the well declined Sri Lanka, are on the rise but have deeper issues to improve upon.
Majrekar regarding the likely fate of the event, told PTI that, "I think Pakistan start as favourites more than India, because they have been playing in those conditions (in the UAE) for a while now and it’s a team which is on the surge. India, of course, are resting Virat (Kohli), which takes a lot of strength away from the team,"
"India are obviously one of the contenders, but when you look at favouritism, (question arises) which team can be rated as the strongest. It’s Pakistan because of where it (the tournament) is being played," he added.
Sanjay also talked about the challenge which India's wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be up against in the two-week long tournament against Asian batsmen. While they've been fantastic for India, signs were there in England that batsmen are starting to pick them better but Sanjay quite wisely reiterated that it'll only better them as bowlers leading upto next year's World Cup.
"India is a very good 50 overs outfit. India in the Test matches struggled a bit overseas, but if you look at their 50-over record, it's very good in all conditions," he said and added, "Earlier, India had batting strength but the bowling did not quite measure up. Now they also have game changers in the middle, so the team wins more matches than it used to because of Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the middle. It’s a more balanced 50 overs team in a long, long time,"
In what has developed as one of India's problems, is their middle order. While the team has one of the finest top three in the modern day game - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli - but there are huge question marks on who fits the bill at no.4,5,6 and 7. The situation has only toughened up with the decline in MS Dhoni's strike-rotating and power hitting abilities.
Assessing the options that India have in their squad currently, Sanjay said, "At the moment Ambati Rayadu, Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey are in the fray. Kedar Jadhav is also there, but I would like to see Shreyas Iyer get a look-in before the World Cup. K L Rahul will get (to bat at) number three, because Virat is not there,"
"We will have a look at him (Rahul) and he is also another middle order option for India." he added, "So it is very important (to settle middle order woes). Because India need a couple of in-form reliable middle-order batsmen. So every match from now on would actually be about settling that (middle order) issue and most of the other areas are taken care of," and signed off.