India’s hopes of qualifying for the Super Fours of the Asia Cup hang in the balance as they take on Nepal in their final group match on Monday. India need to win the game and hope that Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in the other match to advance to the next stage. However, India will have to do without their star fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, who has flown back home for personal reasons.
Bumrah, who is widely regarded as one of the best death bowlers in the world, had just returned from a long-standing back injury that kept him out of action for more than a year. He made his ODI comeback last week, but could not bowl as India’s match against Pakistan was washed out before Pakistan could start their innings. Bumrah played only two T20Is against Ireland since his comeback, taking four wickets and winning the Player of the Series award.
Bumrah’s absence leaves a huge void in India’s bowling attack, which has struggled to contain the opposition batsmen in the recent past. India have conceded more than 300 runs in four of their last five completed ODIs, losing three of them. Their only win came against Ireland, who were bowled out for 172. India will have to rely on the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar to fill in Bumrah’s shoes and provide early breakthroughs and economical overs at the death.
Nepal eye historic upset against India
Nepal, on the other hand, have nothing to lose and everything to gain as they face India for the first time in an ODI. Nepal, who gained ODI status in 2022, have shown impressive performances in their maiden Asia Cup campaign, beating Bangladesh by four wickets and giving Pakistan a tough fight before losing by 238 runs.
Nepal’s strength lies in their spin bowling, led by captain and legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who has taken six wickets in two matches at an average of 16.83 and an economy rate of 4.20. Lamichhane is supported by left-arm spinner Sushan Bhari, who has five wickets at 18.40 and 4.60 respectively. Nepal also have some promising batsmen, such as opener Kushal Bhurtel, who scored a half-century against Bangladesh, and middle-order batsman Dipendra Singh Airee, who hit a match-winning 67 not out against the same opponents.
Nepal will be hoping to exploit India’s weakness against spin and put pressure on their inexperienced batting line-up. India have lost six of their last seven ODIs when chasing a target, and have often collapsed against quality spinners. Nepal will also be motivated by the opportunity to create history and upset one of the giants of world cricket.
Rain could play spoilsport in Pallekele
The weather could also play a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the match, as rain is expected to interrupt play yet again in Pallekele. The venue has already seen two matches being abandoned due to rain, including India’s game against Pakistan. The forecast for Monday is not promising either, with thunderstorms likely throughout the day.
Rain could force the match to be reduced to a shorter format or even cancelled altogether, which would affect both teams’ chances of qualifying for the Super Fours. If the match is abandoned without a result, India will be eliminated from the tournament, as they have zero points from one match, while Nepal have two points from two matches. If the match is reduced to a T20 or a T10 affair, it could favour Nepal, who have more experience and success in those formats than India.
The rain could also affect the pitch and outfield conditions, making it difficult for both batting and bowling sides. The pitch could become slower and lower, offering more turn and variable bounce for the spinners. The outfield could become wet and slippery, making it hard for the fielders to stop boundaries and take catches. The DLS method could also come into play, altering the target scores and required run rates for both teams.
Bumrah expected to return for Super Fours
The only silver lining for India is that Bumrah is expected to be back for the Super Fours stage of the tournament, should they qualify. Bumrah flew home on Monday morning for personal reasons, but is likely to rejoin the squad later this week. Bumrah announced on Twitter that he and his wife Sanjana Ganesan have welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Angad.
Bumrah’s return would boost India’s chances of winning the Asia Cup, which they have won seven times in the past. Bumrah is India’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs since 2022, with 65 wickets in 37 matches at an average of 22.86 and an economy rate of 4.62. He is also the No. 1 ranked bowler in the ICC ODI rankings, with a rating of 797 points. Bumrah’s presence would add more firepower and variety to India’s bowling attack, and give them an edge over their rivals.