Big picture: It’s raining again.
India and Pakistan’s first ODI cricket match since the 2019 World Cup was rained out on Saturday in Pallekele. Monday’s game between India and Nepal at the same place is also likely to rain, with a chance of up to 80%. If Monday’s match in Pallekele also gets rained out, India and Pakistan will both be in the Super Fours from Group A.
Nepal won’t want to go back home until they have played India’s best players. If the weather gets better, this could be the biggest game they’ve ever played, with millions of people watching. Just two months ago, in Colombo, an India team played against a Nepal team led by Rohit Paudel. A team made up of IPL players got beat up badly.
Nepal’s Asia Cup start in Multan was a similar thrashing at the hands of Babar Azam’s Pakistan, but there were times when Nepal showed they could play with the best teams. Like when Karan KC and Sompal Kami worked together early on with focus and a clear goal. When Paudel swooped in and hit the ball directly, it got Imam-ul-Haq out of the game. At the same time, though, they missed a few chances on the field.
They can’t make these kinds of careless mistakes, or any mistakes at all, against an India team that is almost back to full strength. Shreyas Iyer looked good against Pakistan until Haris Rauf ended his time there. But Jasprit Bumrah, who had to go home for personal reasons, won’t be there. Ishan Kishan made the biggest splash on Saturday with 82 off 81 balls at No. 5 on a two-paced track against a scary pace attack.
India is a huge favorite to win the match, but will they give Suryakumar Yadav or Tilak Varma a chance before picking their World Cup team?
WLWLL India (Last five ODIs that have been played, most recent first)
Kuldeep Yadav and Lalit Rajbanshi are getting a lot of attention.
Kuldeep Yadav has become India’s best spin bowler in ODIs since he came back to the team in January. Only Wanindu Hasaranga, Mark Adair, and Maheesh Theekshana have more wickets in ODI cricket this year than Kuldeep’s 22 in 11 games for India. On Monday, Kuldeep can add a lot to his score against a team that might not be used to facing good left-arm wristspin.
Lalit Rajbanshi bowls left-arm fingerspin, which is a less exciting type of spin. He has spent most of his career in the shade of Sandeep Lamichhane, who bowls legspin. But his defense skills have helped Nepal do well in the past few years. When he played Pakistan in Multan, he put together 33 dots to show how good he was. Pakistan scored 342 runs in a game, but Rajbanshi only let them score 48 runs in his ten overs. In the ODI World Cup Qualifier against West Indies in Harare, he even stepped up to bowl at the end and got rid of Rovman Powell, Shai Hope, and Keemo Paul.
Will India make any changes to their team?
Kishan looked like he was having trouble running between the wickets against Pakistan, but he was ready to keep wicket until the constant rain put an end to the game. If Bumrah doesn’t play, Mohammed Shami or Jasprit Bumrah will be able to take his place. India doesn’t need to change anything about their hitting lineup, unless they want to add Suryakumar or Tilak, who were both very good in the T20I series against West Indies.
India (likely): 1 Rohit Sharma (captain), 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Ishan Kishan (wk), Sixth Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami/Prasidh Krishna, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Ravindra Jadeja.
Bhim Sharki is on the team as a backup batsman, but Nepal may keep the same XI.
Nepal (likely): #1 Kushal Bhurtel, #2 Aasif Sheikh (wicketkeeper), #3 Rohit Paudel (captain), #4 Aarif Sheikh, #5 Navdeep Saini. Five Sompal Kami, Sixth Dipendra Singh Airee, 7 Gulshan Jha, 8th: Kushal Malla, 9th: Karan KC, 10th: Sandeep Lamichhane, 11th: Lalit Rajbanshi
Pitch and weather: Keep your eyes on the sky
On Saturday, the weather and the ground in Pallekele made it hard for hitters. Monday could also be good for seamers, but everyone will be looking to the sky again.
The first time Nepla played was against India.
This will be Nepal’s first international game against India and only their fifth ODI against a Full-Member country.
Kushal Bhurtel needs six more runs to join Paudel and Aasif Sheikh as the only other Nepalese players with 1000 runs in ODI cricket.
Virat Kohli needs 98 more runs to reach 13,000 runs in ODIs. This would make him the second Indian and fifth bowler in the world to do so.