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Team India will be playing on the UAE soil after a 12-year gap and most certainly start as one of the favourites to take the trophy back home. India did not get much time off after a gruelling long English tour and they'll be expected to adjust to the UAE conditions which are completely in contrast with the English conditions. It's very hot in Dubai with the temperature soaring as high as 40 degrees and it is not going to be easy for the players out there. India start off their campaign against Hong Kong, who will be low on confidence after an 8-wicket drubbing against Pakistan. India didn't get enough practice and this match will act as a practice match for their much-awaited encounter against arch-rivals, Pakistan.
India's batting will definitely not be the same in the absence of their regular skipper, Virat Kohli, who has been rested keeping in mind his workload management. But India is a very strong batting side in the white ball format and they have able replacements for Virat Kohli in the middle. India, however, have a couple of things to figure out with their team combination and this tournament will act as a testing ground for all their experiments. With the World Cup less than a year away, India will want to fill in the missing links with the right player and would want to persist with the combination until the World Cup in 2019. While the top 3 are fixed, India are still struggling to find the correct number 4 and number 6 in the line-up.
The absence of Virat Kohli will give others a chance to prove their mettle and pose a strong case for themselves in the middle order. India have Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, and Kedar Jadhav fighting for the two spots and this tournament will see at least 3 of them play in the XI. India have shuffled a lot but are yet to find the ideal number 4. The return of Kedar Jadhav solves the problem of a 6th bowling option, one of India's few conundrums and he will be expected to feature in the XI despite not having a great quadrangular series for India B.
We can only wait to find out as to who will go at number 3 and number 4 in the match against Hong Kong as all the available players have been raking in a lot of runs off late and have been in red-hot form but Ambati Rayudu and KL Rahul seem to be the front-runners in this race. MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya are definite starters in the XI unless an injury forces them out. India are also pretty sorted when it comes to the bowling department with both their wrist spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav coming back in the side along with the fast bowling duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, Jasprit Bumrah might be rested for the match against Hong Kong to keep him rejuvenated for the coming matches as he's bowled a lot in England. They have an exciting talent in Khaleel Ahmed who's been really impressive in his recent domestic matches and he might fill in for Bumrah if the management decides to rest him.
Hong Kong do have a few promising players in their rank but the team is just not ready for the big stage at this moment, in all honesty. We saw that in the game against Pakistan and India are going to be an equally tough outing for them. However, India will not like to take things lightly as upsets in major tournaments are not a new thing and they'll want to be as clinical as possible. It might not be the ideal match for the viewers as everyone is waiting for the high octane India-Pakistan clash but this match can act as a perfect warm-up before the major clash.
Catch all the action from the India v Hong Kong match of the Unimoni Asia Cup at Dubai Internation Stadium in Dubai, Tuesday, 18th September, 5:00 PM IST.