All but eliminated from the race to final, a demoralised India would look to sign off their disastrous Asia Cup campaign on a positive note when they take on spirited debutantes Afghanistan in their last round-robin league match here on Wednesday.
Hit hard by successive defeats, India will be eyeing a bonus point win over Afghanistan to boost their sagging morale in what has been a depressing campaign for the record five-time champions. India`s minuscule chances of making the final hinge on bizarre arithmetical equations. Virat Kohli`s men would have to get past Pakistan in net run-rate so as to make the final, a situation which will only arise if Bangladesh managed to beat Pakistan in their last match.
Four-time champions Sri Lanka have already sealed their final berth cruising to a third consecutive win, this time with a bonus point against Afghanistan last night. But it`s not going to be easy for the Indians who look vulnerable without regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as that winning edge has been missing from the side. The batting has centred around Kohli as none of the other batsmen have shown the temperament to stay at the crease and go all the way.
For a team that relies on its batting prowess, it is proving to be the difference between a victory and loss. It will be once again a test of the Indian batting against minnows Afghanistan who have been a revelation in this tournament putting up an impressive show especially with their pace bowling. They have a potent pace attack in the Zadran duo of Shapoor and Dawlat and the left-right combination bring in the variety to fast bowling. Spin department also has the variety in the trio of skipper Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari and Hamza Hotak.
Nabi gets vicious turn with his off-spin, while Shenwari has that acute leg-breaks making the duo the team`s principal wicket-taking spinners. Left-armer Hotak has also done well to restrict the flow of runs at one end, conceding runs at 4.04 from three matches. Bubbling with enthusiasm, Afghanistan announced their arrival at the big stage when they downed Bangladesh by 32 runs for their maiden victory against a Test-playing nation after four matches.
Afghanistan`s bowlers would look to primarily target Kohli. A level of mediocrity has descended on the Indian side after drawing a blank in the tours of South Africa and New Zealand. Kohli`s aggressive captaincy has brought in the spark in the Indian side but unfortunately it has not been translated into wins, barring against Bangladesh in their first match. Leading from the front, Kohli slammed 136 to help India recover from a jittery start and set up an easy six wicket win against Bangladesh. Since then, Kohli has not been able to put up big runs and India have lost on both occasions.