Having defeated Sri Lanka on Tuesday to claim their third victory in a row, India will go into their final league match against UAE in most relaxed mode. The win against Sri Lanka by five wickets ensured them a place in the final. Having secured the same, MS Dhoni admitted that India will look to give the untested players a chance in the easy contest against the Emirates. With the World T20 just days away, India will be keen to have a look at their bench strength, in case they are needed during the mega event. As for UAE, they have lost all three games, but they have been competitive without doubt, especially with the ball. They will be keen to improve in the batting department though, which has struggled.
A number of fringe players from India could be seen in Thursday's contest against UAE. A few years ago, one couldn't have imagined this, but one of the names in this group is veteran Harbhajan Singh. The ageing off-spinner's Test and ODI career may be over, but he remains in the running in the T20 format, especially because of the success he has faced with Mumbai Indians in the IPL. That said, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have established themselves as the frontline spinners in the T20 format for India. So Harbhajan will get a chance only in case they are unavailable or rested. The match against UAE could be one such rare instance, and Harbhajan would be keen to make an impression in case he gets a chance.
The other benched spinner in the squad is Pawan Negi. The only surprise selection in the World T20 squad, Negi could come in for Jadeja. Since he has been chosen for such a big event, it is crucial that Negi gets a feel of international cricket before the World T20. Apart from his slow bowling, Negi is also a handy hitter down the order, who has tasted success in the IPL. Even so, it is important that he is tested. The game will also give old warhorse Ashish Nehra an opportunity to take a well deserved break. He has been playing non-stop since his comeback in Australia. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has gone off the boil in recent times, should be given a chance to try and get some form back.
There are not much changes that can be made to the batting department. But, Ajinkya Rahane at the top for Shikhar Dhawan is one swap they could definitely try out. Rahane did turn out against Pakistan, but got a delivery that would have taken out most batsmen. Overall though, India would be pleased with their batting prowess. Virat Kohli has carried on in Bradmanesque form. But, the biggest gain for India against Sri Lanka was the glimpses of old shown by Yuvraj Singh. In what was a much-needed pleasing display, Yuvraj cleared the field with ease, and also brought out his trademark flamboyant drives until the short ball got the better of him. The time he spent in the middle against Pakistan seems to have helped him.
In spite of their unbeaten record, there are still a couple of areas India need to work upon. Suresh Raina may have won India a crucial game in Australia, but he has been tested by the short ball again in Bangladesh. India will need him to get a bigger knock under his belt. Also, this should not be a significant cause of worry, but Rohit Sharma hasn't fired in the tournament. Given the consistency he has shown over the last few months, he was bound to have a few low scores. But, with the World T20 only days away, India will want him back in peak form. All in all, a pressure-free game for India, but they would like to make the best out of it.
-- By A Cricket Analyst