Asia Cup 2023: Five positives for India to take from title win heading into the World Cup
India went into the Asia Cup with some questions about how their team would be put together. During the previous tour of the West Indies, there were a lot of lineup changes, especially in the batting order.
This made people wonder if the team management knows who will be in what places at the World Cup next month. However, India was mostly consistent with their teams at the Asia Cup.
When changes were made, it was usually because of an illness or to give players more playing time. This was the case in the dead rubber game against Bangladesh, which India also lost.
All of it came to a shocking end when India crushed a Sri Lankan team that had only lost one of its last 15 ODI matches before the final. Even though there were mistakes in the field and batting collapses, India was able to get out of almost all difficult situations and win their first big trophy since the 2018 Asia Cup.
Apart from the confidence that comes with lifting a prize right before the World Cup, here are five other good things that India can take away from winning the 2023 Asia Cup.
- Kuldeep Yadav
India's intention to use Kuldeep Yadav as their primary spinner heading into the World Cup has been evident all year. Since the 2019 World Cup, Kuldeep's number of Indian team appearances had drastically decreased; in 2020, 2021, and 2022, he played just 17 ODIs; in contrast, he has played 16 matches this year alone.
With 31 wickets at an average of 15.51 in one of his more fruitful ODI seasons, he has responded to that faith. When it comes to total wickets taken in ODI cricket this year among all participating nations and, more significantly, World Cup-qualified teams, Kuldeep is tied with Mahesh Theekshana of Sri Lanka.
During the Asia Cup, he claimed nine wickets at an average of 11.44, earning the title of player of the tournament. Over the course of a spectacular session in the Super Four match against Pakistan, five of those wickets fell, helping India easily defeat their bitter opponents by 228 runs.
- Ishan Kishan
Ishan Kishan's results have made it more likely that he will be in the starting lineup for the World Cup. This year, Kishan has scored 360 runs in 13 ODIs, which gives him an average of 40. This is similar to what he did in 2022, when he got 417 runs in eight games and had an average of 59.57.
He started the Asia Cup by making his fourth half-century in a row in this style. With Hardik Pandya, he helped India win a close game against Pakistan.
When India was down to 66/4, Kishan made 82 runs in 81 balls as part of a 138-run partnership with Pandya for the fourth wicket. This kept India from falling apart. After that match, Shreyas Iyer got hurt, so Kishan and KL Rahul are now the favourites to play in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots. In fact, Iyer's return to the team is now unlikely even if he gets better.
- Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul's recoveries
It has become clear in this tournament that a large part of the problems in the Indian team came from the fact that their first team regulars were injured. Jasprit Bumrah had given a glimpse of his fitness in the T20I series against Ireland but it is in the Asia Cup that he played his first ODI matches.
It became clear pretty quickly that the premier pacer had regained the touch that made him one of the best in the world before he started getting his niggles. He took four wickets but was almost impossible to score off with the new ball.
It may have been Mohammed Siraj who took a six-wicket haul against Sri Lanka but Bumrah started the decimation by picking a wicket off just the third ball of the match.
KL Rahul also gave an instant reminder of why he had made the No.5 position his own in the Indian ODI team. India's Super Four match against Pakistan was his first on return from injury and he was unbeaten on 111 off 106 balls as part of a record 233 not out stand with Virat Kohli which helped India win the match by 228 runs.
- Mohammed Siraj
India have preferred Mohammed Siraj this year over Mohammed Shami and that was clearer than ever in the Asia Cup. Only one of these two could play with Jasprit Bumrah returning and the pitches in Sri Lanka largely suiting spin bowlers and it was Siraj that India went with.
The 29-year-old repaid this faith by either being economic in the three matches he played in the run up to the final, or taking three wickets in the one match where batters took him for runs against Nepal. In the final, though, he took things to rather unprecedented level. Siraj started off with a maiden and then took a whopping four wickets in his second over, all but sealing the title for India in just the fourth over of the match. That game had everything one needs to know about Siraj.
He showed just how dangerous he can be on his day and how he doesn't shy away from ludicrously large-hearted efforts, from chasing the ball to the boundary in the follow through of his hat-trick delivery to bowling seven overs on the trot and recording figures of 6/21.
- Ruthless efficiency
India and England were considered the favourites to win the 2019 World Cup, owing largely to their merciless efficiency in bilateral ODIs leading up to the event. A combination of crucial player injuries and leadership uncertainty had thrown up its efficiency in the ensuing years, but it was on display at various periods during the Asia Cup.
The clearest example is possibly the final itself, when Sri Lanka were 12/5 at the conclusion of Siraj's four-wicket over and skipper Rohit Sharma never let up. He retained Siraj at one end and Bumrah and later Hardik Pandya at the other, with Kuldeep bowling just one over of spin in that innings.
Kishan opened the innings with Shubman Gill after Sri Lanka were all out for 50, and the pair chased it down in 6.1 overs. Throughout the tournament, Gill and Rohit put up aggressive and successful opening stands, while Kohli and Rahul's accelaration in their partnership against Pakistan was another example.