Mirpur: On a roll with three back-to-back victories, India have finally decided to test their reserve bench against minnows United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the final league encounter of the Asia Cup cricket tournament in Mirpur on Thursday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not someone who believes in chopping and changing the side too often but after making it to the final with a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka, the India skipper said that the UAE match will be a platform to give opportunity to all those who have till now warmed the benches.
It means that atleast two or three amongst the quartet of Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are likely to get a game on Thursday.
"We'll definitely make a few changes in the coming games. How many we can you know, that's something we will have to see. Because we still want the strength and the composition of the side to be very good," Dhoni said.
"I think most of the players will definitely get a chance in the next game. Whether all the people who are sitting outside will get a chance, we're not sure. But we will try to make as many changes as possible," he added.
It is expected that Rahane will get another game in the tournament. It can be in place of Shikhar Dhawan, who has looked uncomfortable on wickets, that has a bit more swing and carry.
Rahane did play against Pakistan but got out to a delivery from Mohammed Amir, which would have got any big batsman dismissed. The stylish right-hander deserves a second opportunity more than anyone.
Ashish Nehra, who is months short of his 37th birthday, will not mind being rested after playing nine T20 games in a month. In these 9 games, he has bowled 31 overs with a more than decent haul of 12 wickets at a satisfactory economy rate.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has slipped off the radar a bit since the World Cup in Australia last year, may get a game in that case.
Three years back, Bhuvneshwar was the first choice seamer in all conditions and across formats for his ability to swing the ball. Much has happened since those days of high for the Meerut lad who now finds it difficult to keep his place in the squad.
He has grown stronger, increased few yards of pace but has lost that ability to swing the ball both ways. A weaker opposition like UAE might help him to get a few easy wickets and also bolster his confidence.
The quality of opposition also gives Dhoni an opportunity to test his second line of spinners.
The off-spin-left-arm spin combination of Harbhajan Singh and Pawan Negi can straightaway replace Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for this particular game.
Negi, who emerged as the most expensive Indian player during the recent IPL auction when he was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 8.5 crore, has warmed the benches but he is someone, who can bowl wicket-to-wicket like his senior Jadeja.
In terms of batting abilities, those who have seen Negi in domestic and franchise games will vouch that he is a better six-hitter than Jadeja on any given day. The only area where Jadeja is cut above Negi is fielding.
If Harbhajan gets a chance, he will have to accept that it will be a one-off game as per the current situation where Ashwin has literally cemented his place in the playing XI.
While warming the bench is the last thing that a senior player will ever want, Harbhajan, in case he gets an opportunity, will like to use it to the fullest. A good performance will be a morale booster for him.
As a bowling unit, UAE has not done too badly with their skipper Amjad Javed leading from the front. Javed has dealt early blows to all the oppositions but in case of India, the batting line-up is far superior compared to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Yuvraj Singh, who looked in fine touch against Sri Lanka, would like to feast on an inexperienced bowling attack. Ditto for Suresh Raina, who has looked in all sorts of trouble against rising deliveries in these matches. Since both are certainties in the playing XI, they would like to get big scores before the final.
In a nutshell, the UAE encounter will be a live 'practice game' for the Indians.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Negi, Harbhajan Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parthiv Patel (wk).
United Arab Emirates: Amjad Javed (captain), Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Naveed, Mohammed Shahzad, Muhammad Kaleem, Muhammad Usman, Swapnil Patil (wk), Qadeer Ahmed, Rohan Mustafa, Saqlain Haider, Shaiman Anwar, Usman Mushtaq, Zaheer Maqsood.
Match starts at 7 pm (IST).