As India’s long tour of England draws to a close, the buzz around Asia Cup 2018 is growing with each passing day as the tournament opener between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on September 15 is edging closer and closer. Hong Kong has been confirmed as the sixth participating nation and the complete schedule is also out now.
The tournament has also been in the news as it will pit defending champions India against arch-rivals Pakistan against each other on September 19 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. This will be the first meeting between these two sides after last year’s Champions Trophy final in June and India will be gunning for revenge, albeit without captain and talisman Virat Kohli who has been rested.
Continuing our series of special features prior to the commencement of Asia Cup 2018, we have compiled the best possible combined playing XI featuring players from both India and Pakistan. While it would have been a treat watching Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram playing for the same team, which players would make the Combined XI from among the current lot of superstars? Let’s find out.
India vs Pakistan Combined XI for Asia Cup 2018
1. Rohit Sharma (c)
Despite his well documented frailties in early part of an innings, it is fair to state that Rohit Sharma is good enough to walk into any country’s playing XI in limited overs cricket at present. Once in the groove, the Indian dasher is capable of inflicting irreparable damage to opposition bowlers and turn a game on its head. With regular skipper Kohli rested for the event, Rohit has also been named India’s stand-in captain and will be expected to lead from the front.
During his time at the helm of Mumbai Indians and on brief occasions when he has captained India, the 31-year-old has shown that he is also an astute leader and is our pick to captain this combined lineup of superstars.
2. Fakhar Zaman
Rohit Sharma’s opening partner Shikhar Dhawan might feel a bit aggrieved here but Fakhar Zaman deserves a place in this side on the sheer weight of runs he has scored over the course of last 12 months or so. Since his debut in June 2017, Fakhar has amassed over 1000 runs in just 18 ODI matches and also became the fastest man to reach the milestone in the recent series against Zimbabwe. At 28 years of age, the swashbuckling has been a late bloomer in cricket and has made the most of his chances so far.
Indian fans will also remember Fakhar’s century in last year’s Champions Trophy final which Pakistan won in rather convincing fashion. With an average of 76 and a strike rate of 100, Fakhar Zaman rightfully takes his place ahead of Shikhar Dhawan and Imam Ul Haq in our India vs Pakistan Combined XI.
3. Babar Azam
Had Virat Kohli been playing in Asia Cup 2018, the number 3 slot would have been the most straight-forward choice but his absence has opened to doors for Pakistan ace Babar Azam who has long been deemed as the future of his country’s batting across formats. While he nowhere close to reaching the Indian captain’s consistency, Babar is technically very correct, is immensely gifted and always puts a price on his wicket.
Still only 23, Babar already has 8 one-day hundreds to his name and is currently the world’s second ranked ODI batsman as per ICC Rankings. The former Under-19 captain sees off rather tough competition from the likes of KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu for this crucial spot.
4. Shoaib Malik
Manish Pandey has been in great form with the bat, Haris Sohail and Asif Ali have done well in their short careers for Pakistan so far but it is veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik who wins the race to take the Number 4 position in our India vs Pakistan Combined XI. The 36-year-old has been playing for nearly two decades now and is one of the very few cricketers to have made their debut in the last century (October 1999 in this case).
Malik has now at the fag end of his playing career but is still very fit and often makes key contribution for Sarfraz Ahmed’s side in pressure situations. He also has a particular affinity towards Indian bowlers and has played quite a few memorable knocks against India over the years.
5. MS Dhoni (wk)
Perhaps a debatable pick given Sarfraz Ahmed’s rise in recent years but MS Dhoni has to be in this India vs Pakistan Combined XI for his wealth of experience and unreal tactical nous. The former Indian captain has played as many as 321 ODI games for his country and has scored over 10,000 runs during this time. At 37 years of age, Dhoni also remains a master wicketkeeper who is still extremely agile behind the stumps.
Having captained India to a host of international titles during his rather long reign at the helm, Dhoni’s knowledge and awareness of the game is unparalleled and he remains a key asset which continues to serve Indian cricket.
6. Hardik Pandya
It is his batting which has earned Hardik Pandya a spot in this side as there are five genuine wicket-takers to follow him. Pakistan’s Faheem Ashraf hasn’t put a foot wrong in his short international career so far but he is more of a bowler who can chip in with some handy runs in between but Hardik’s case is the complete opposite as he is yet to convince the world of his bowling but is certainly a force to reckon with as a batsman.
The Mumbai Indians star has time and again displayed his ability to unleash havoc in death overs and also possesses the temperament of a proper batsman. Considering the need to put together a balanced India vs Pakistan Combined XI, the younger Pandya is our pick ahead of Faheem and Kedhar Jadhav.
7. Shadab Khan
Shadab Khan is currently the blue-eyed boy of Pakistan cricket and the country’s cricket fans have high hopes of the 19-year old leg-spinner from Mianwali. And rightly so. In an international career which is almost 18 months old, Shadab, with his many variations, has successfully forged a reputation as one of world’s leading spinners in white-ball cricket. He is also a handy lower-order batsman who will only get better with age and time.
Yuzvendra Chahal has been mightily impressive for India and is even deemed as skipper Kohli’s go-to man in the middle overs but we feel that Shadab has that X-factor which will take him places in the years to come.
8. Hasan Ali
Hasan Ali is another player who was instrumental in Pakistan’s surprising Champions Trophy triumph last year and the right-arm fast bowler has only grown in stature since then. There can be a genuine argument for Bhuvneshwar Kumar to be included in this side ahead of Hasan Ali but the Indian ace has only just recovered from a serious injury and it remains to be seen if he is completely match fit or not.
Hasan Ali is the also world’s third highest bowled in ICC ODI Rankings for bowlers and has a wonderful knack of picking up wickets at regular intervals. The 24-year-old can generate some serious pace and is more than handful for any batsman in the world when in full flow.
9. Kuldeep Yadav
One half of India’s ace spin duo, Kuldeep Yadav‘s journey has been an absolute joy to watch so far. The left arm chinaman has well and truly brought alive a dying art form in cricket and is a genuine wicket-taking threat whenever he comes on to bowl for India in the shorter formats. His recent spell of 6/25 against England will stay in the memory for long as he decimated the Englishmen in their own backyard and emerged as India’s match winner in Nottingham.
One feels that Kuldeep will be a key weapon in captain Rohit Sharma’s armoury going into Asia Cup 2018 and walks into this India vs Pakistan Combined XI as our first-choice spinner.
10. Mohammad Amir
There are very few bowlers who can rival Mohammad Amir purely in terms of ability at present. The 26-year-old left-arm pacer has quickly re-established himself as the leader of Pakistan’s bowling attack after serving out a five-year suspension period and possesses the ability of dismantling any batting lineup in a matter of few overs. Amir will have to play a key role for captain Sarfraz Ahmed and his side if Pakistan are to win Asia Cup 2018 in UAE.
Considering everything, Amir is an automatic selection in this side.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
The world’s leading ODI bowler cannot be left out from this side, can he? Today, Jasprit Bumrah is perhaps the unofficial leader of India’s bowling attack in all formats and is the first man to be summoned by captain Kohli when he is looking for a wicket. With his awkward bowling style, Bumrah is a nightmare to face for batsmen across the globe and can unsettle the best of them with his toe-crushing yorkers.
His pin-point accuracy and death bowling ability make him a dream bowler to have in the side. Together, Bumrah, Amir and Hasan Ali will form a deadly triumvirate of fast bowlers in our India vs Pakistan Combined XI.