Date :19-Sep-2023

ABIT away from the statistics, records, milestones and achievements in the Asia Cup, the most telling gesture that deserves a grand salute came from hero of the day, Mohammad Siraj. The Indian pacer rattled the clueless Sri Lankans to kill the final of the tournament before pumping life into the lives of the unsung heroes behind the entire show. By donating the entire prize money for the Man of the Final performance to the groundstaff in the tournament, Siraj acknowledged the gigantic effort of the little men who pushed limits, fought the elements and made most of the resources to complete the Asia Cup that looked a goner at one time. This humility of the Indian pacer and his amazing sense of rising to the occasion would be the biggest takeaway of the tournament that served many more gains for Team India before entering the last phase towards the all-important ICC World Cup. Now, back to statistics, records, milestones and achievements in the Asia Cup with the India perspective. It was deemed a dress rehearsal before the World Cup beginning in India in October. The clues that the Indians left on the Asian stage should form a perfect script for the marquee event where the scope of competition increases manifold with other entrants from the world and throws a new challenge to performers of the Asia Cup.
Summing up the clues, India should march into the big-ticket event as overwhelming favourites. They ticked most of the boxes needed for a complete set-up full of in-form performers and in the process also filled critical spaces that could have turned into a vacuum in the World Cup. The world must now take note of the Indians who have showed tremendous adaptability in the tournament which threw all possible results at them. The loss to Bangladesh with a second-string side on the field was a wake-up call needed to avoid banana skins while the crushing victory against Sri Lanka in the final was a signal to go for the jugular when the opponent is on the mat. In between, the Pakistanis were dealt with two different strategies to take home some brownie points. It bodes really well for the team as they went through all the scenarios against the top Asian sides, making the present lot of players battle-hardened for the next big war. While the batting unit clicked in their given roles at the top and later in the crucial middle-order, the most heartening development was the return of Jasprit Bumrah to international action. The Gujarat pacer looks to have put the injury and subsequent lay-off far behind him as he showed glimpses of his old form by regularly finding the yorkers.
The back-of-length snorters came as a proof of Bumrah taking back the mantle of leader of the Indian bowling. This time around he has the best-performing partners by his side in Siraj, Hardik Pandya and Mohd Shami. That Shami could be benched in top games showed the riches India can enjoy in the pace department during the World Cup. Backing the frontline pace attack was the versatile performer Shardul Thakur and the quick-learning Kuldeep Yadav. Thakur yet again justified his billing as the partnership-breaker while Kuldeep cemented his spot as the premier spinner in the side with his nine-wicket haul in two games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Those two league games in the Asia Cup were the stamp of his return to the table from where he cannot be dislodged anytime soon. It will be a happy conundrum for the team management to pick from the rich options. Then again, it was the scenario the BCCI and selectors were waiting for after investing heavily in the youngsters through the ‘A’ tours and Emerging Teams tournaments. The signals from Lanka are positive for a go at the World.