Asia Cup preview: India

India

Abject failure across ODI and Test cricket in New Zealand recently has left India longing for a return to familiar conditions on the sub-continent.

<b>Captain:</b> Virat Kohli<br><b>Coach:</b> Duncan Fletcher<br><b>Asia Cup Best:</b> Winners – 1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2010

<b>Overview</b><br>Abject failure across ODI and Test cricket in New Zealand recently has left India longing for a return to familiar conditions on the sub-continent. Meanwhile, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been sidelined by a side strain – allegedly. But perhaps this is the Board of Control for Cricket in India's way of looking at the incumbent Virat Kohli as a future captain. Either way, the Indians, under whoever's leadership, require a prompt return to form. The lure and riches of the impending Indian Premier League, too, need to be negated until early April, as <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/asia-cup' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>popular cricket betting websites offer solid odds</b></a> for the World Cup champions.

<b>Key Batsman</b><br>A reliance on Kohli for big runs might have to sit on the backburner, for this series at least, as he concentrates on the captaincy and someone else becomes the centurion in-chief. That mandate will lie with opener <b>Shikhar Dhawan</b>, who needs rekindle some of the brilliance that was lost in the land of the long, white cloud. Dhawan won't be challenged by short balls in conditions primed for pace this time, so there is little doubt he will return to his best.

<b>Key Bowler</b><br>India see a growing talent in all-rounder <b>Stuart Binny's</b> bowling. Seam, amid pressing pace and tantalising turn, will have its place. Something more threatening than Kohli's trundle and wannabe spinner Rohit Sharma's slow bowling has been a requirement, with Binny eager to oblige – if not for a full allotment of 10 overs, then a three- or five-over burst.

<b>Likely Benchwarmer</b><br>Seamer <b>Ishwar Pandey's</b> name is on the bulk of fans and pundits' lips, with many suggesting he should be in the playing XI. With the out-of-form Ishant Sharma, in limited-overs cricket, that is, dropped, Pandey will still not climb the pecking order ahead of the developing Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Reigning World Cup champions and the highest-ranked sub-continental team in the ICC's eyes, India are considerably understrength without Dhoni and the left-handed Suresh Raina. Form and fitness suggests <b>they'll lose to Sri Lanka and Pakistan</b>, but get past Afghanistan and Bangladesh easily – to appease modest and brave <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'></b>Asia Cup betting</b></a> alike.

<b>They Said:</b> "There is plenty of improvement. That's what it's all about. You want to keep improving to a stage where you start converting those good situations into better starts and start capitalising on it." – injured <b>Mahendra Singh Dhoni</b>.

<b>Squad:</b> Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey, Dinesh Karthik.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>26 February: v Bangladesh, Fatullah<br>28 February: v Sri Lanka, Fatullah<br>2 March: v Pakistan, Mirpur<br>5 March: v Afghanistan, Mirpur

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