India have done nothing wrong in the ongoing Asia Cup, defeating teams such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, all of whom were contenders for the title. Now they will want to register their fourth straight win in the competition as they meet the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, Thursday.
India have played some brilliant cricket in the competition to have qualified for the final of the Asia Cup, which is set to take place Sunday. Bangladesh, after their victory against Pakistan, have set up a date with India in the final.
MS Dhoni and his men, who were tournament favourites even before the Asia Cup started, are expected to make some changes in the team. Players such as Harbhajan Singh, Parthiv Patel, Pawan Negi and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have not featured in the Asia Cup so far. Ajinkya Rahane, who replaced an injured Shikhar Dhawan against Pakistan, did not grab his chance well.
Allowing them a chance to play against the UAE will also help India prepare all their players before the World T20 as well. All the aforementioned players will be eager to impress and grab a place in the starting 11, which seems to be more or less fixed, with all the regular starters performing.
However, an exceptional performance against the UAE could pave the way for a spot in the finals. It is at this juncture that Rahane, another opener in the team, can grab the opportunity with both hands.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar have suffered injuries during the Asia Cup, and more importantly, with the left-hander having failed with the bat in the Asia Cup, Rahane might just get a chance if he comes up with an incredible performance that cannot be ignored by the Indian team thinktank.
For other players such as Bhuvneshwar, Harbhajan and Negi, they will need to give their best and put their case forward for the World T20 and other competitions in the near future. The player that performs well against the UAE will stand a chance if any bowler is injured before the Asia Cup final.
With the pitches in Dhaka supporting bowlers, the batsmen have been having some troubling scoring runs at a quick rate. But India's top batsman, Virat Kohli, has shown his class in the competition with some brilliant knocks.
Kohli, who is expected to captain the side if Dhoni decides to sit out, will be keen to continue his impressive run with the bat against the UAE, and take such form to the Asia Cup final. Along with Kohli, bolwers such as Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah have also been good in the T20 competition.
The UAE, on the other hand, are the only team in the Asia Cup to have lost all their matches, and are not expected to trouble India in their last round-robin match. Despite their losses, they have played some quality cricket, putting up a serious challenge against teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangaldesh.
The UAE players will be eager to play their best game against India. The UAE bowlers have been impressive in the competition. In fact, the UAE's bowlers â€” Amjad Javed and Mohammad Naveed â€” are the most successful wicket-takers in the competition. If we take into account their matches during the qualifiers as well, they have bagged 12 and 11 wickets, respectively.
The UAE, to be honest, were not expected to win a single match. Their only objective was to qualify for the Asia Cup, and they did, defeating teams like Afghanistan and Hong Kong in the qualifiers. UAE coach Aaqib Javed believes they need to maintain their standard after qualifying for such events as well.
"If you don't qualify for the mega events, then our board and people say: 'The performances aren't there'. Once you qualify for these events, the responsibility is on you to make sure you post something that is respectable," Aaqib was quoted as saying by The National.
Where to watch live
The Asia Cup match â€“ India vs UAE -- is scheduled for a 7:30 pm local time (7 p.m. IST, 1:30 p.m. GMT, 8:30 a.m. ET) start.
Sri Lanka viewers can watch the India vs UAE game live on MTV Sports and Star Network. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch India vs UAE T20 live on OSN Sports Cricket HD. The live stream option is available on OSN Play.
Channel 9 and the Star Network will broadcast the India vs UAE match live in Bangladesh.
Pakistan viewers can watch India vs UAE live on Geo Super, PTV and Star; live streaming option on GeoSuper Live.