Historically, India have been clinical dismantlers of Associate opposition. Before Zimbabwe played their first Test match, India beat them five times in five ODI meetings. It was eight out of eight in Bangladesh’s case. And in 27 ODI meetings with all other Associate teams and pre-Test-status Ireland and Afghanistan, they have only lost twice – both times to Kenya.
Could Hong Kong do a Kenya on Tuesday? Probably not.
But as Kenya discovered in Gwalior over 20 years ago, 45-degree heat can cause strange things to happen. Dubai on Tuesday will be almost as hot. And having played against Hong Kong in that heat, India will return to the same venue on Wednesday to face Pakistan.
That could mean India, already without Virat Kohli, rest a few more big names, giving Hong Kong a slightly bigger chance of pulling off something spectacular.
Could it happen? Probably not. But the potential for an upset lies in what this game means to the two sides.
For India, it is the first of two back-to-back matches in extreme weather conditions, and a potential banana peel in a not-hugely-consequential tournament squeezed into an already packed calendar. For Hong Kong, who have only just lost their ODI status this year, it’s a massive occasion and an exceedingly rare opportunity to face a cricketing superpower.
Hong Kong LLLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Since the start of the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Christopher Carter has been playing as a specialist batsman, with the keeper’s gloves going to Scott McKechnie. He made 33 in the final against UAE, but his batting returns otherwise haven’t been great – he’s only crossed 20 once in 10 ODIs, and averages 15.57 in List A cricket. Carter is set to join a flight school and train as a pilot later this year. Before he puts a temporary stop on his Hong Kong career, he’d be itching to end his stint with a big score.
Another ODI tournament, same old question for India: what to do with the middle order? In the absence of Kohli, and with MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya settled into the roles of keeper-batsman and allrounder respectively, India will have five batsmen – Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu – fighting for three spots. By the end of this tournament, India may well have a clearer picture of their first-choice middle order. Or not.
They were brushed aside by Pakistan, but Hong Kong might not make too many changes; they played the same XI for the last three matches of their successful Qualifiers campaign.
Hong Kong (possible): 1 Nizakat Khan, 2 Anshuman Rath (capt), 3 Babar Hayat, 4 Kinchit Shah, 5 Christopher Carter, 6 Ehsan Khan, 7 Aizaz Khan, 8 Scott McKechnie (wk), 9 Tanwir Afzal, 10 Ehsan Nawaz, 11 Nadeem Ahmed.
Given the 40-degree heat of Dubai, and the fact that they play Pakistan the day after meeting Hong Kong, India might choose to rest some of their first-choice players. That might mean a debut for the left-arm quick Khaleel Ahmed. “Excited to see Khaleel play,” Rohit Sharma said in the pre-match press conference. “He’s got what it takes. Pace, swing. Personally looking forward to him doing well.”
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan/KL Rahul, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni/Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya/Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Shardul Thakur, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah/Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Pitch and conditions
The match will be held on the same strip that hosted the Hong Kong-Pakistan game on Sunday. Usman Khan, who picked three wickets in that match, said it was the slowest pitch he had ever played on in Dubai. There was grip for the spinners, and India might contemplate playing Axar Patel as their allrounder to complement their wristspin pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. With Kedar Jadhav’s low-slung offspin also in the mix, Hong Kong could end up facing a lot of spin.
Stats and trivia
India and Hong Kong have met once before in ODIs, during the 2008 Asia Cup. In that match, centuries from MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina lifted India to a total of 374 and an eventual win by 256 runs. The only member of Hong Kong’s current squad who played that match is the left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed.
Among the 66 batsmen to have scored 2000-plus runs while opening the batting in ODIs, Rohit Sharma has the best average – 54.32. Shikhar Dhawan is seventh-best at 45.72.
After 23 ODIs, Kuldeep Yadav has 48 wickets. If he gets to 50 against Hong Kong, he will become the second-quickest Indian behind Ajit Agarkar (23 matches), and joint fourth-quickest overall, alongside Dennis Lillee and Hasan Ali.
Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1159669.html?CMP=OTC-RSS