Kuldeep Yadav Yuzvendra Chahal Asia Cup, Asia Cup 2018, Asia Cup 13, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, UAE, Afghanistan
Kuldeep Yadav (left) congratulates Yuzvendra Chahal © Getty Images (file photo)

Away from the cold English conditions, India enter the 2018 Asia Cup without regular skipper Virat Kohli in search of their seventh title. Led by Rohit Sharma, India face Hong Kong in their opener on Wednesday. Both teams have faced each other only once, when MS Dhoni and his team won by 256 runs over the Associate Nation in the 2008 Asia Cup.

India will want to make a statement before their big clash against arch nemesis, Pakistan on Thursday. A win today will only hold the team in good stead ahead of the continental showpiece. Here are some India players to watch out for:

Rohit Sharma: While critics might argue that the absence of Kohli may have reduced the strength of India’s batting to half, Rohit has a different story to tell. Rohit has an impressive record as skipper. In December 2017, when Kohli was rested for the one-dayers and T20s against Sri Lanka, Rohit was handed over the reins for the first time in his career. India won the ODI series 2-1 and the T20Is 3-0. He was then picked to lead the side for the Nidahas Trophy in March this year. Rohit led India to victory in the triangular series.

MS Dhoni: The experience and guile of Dhoni is unmatched and Rohit will be more than happy to pick Dhoni’s brains, a vital asset for the team. With the big gloves, Dhoni has virtually sealed his place in the shorter format. It is his batting that has been a concern to the team management. The former India skipper did not have a great outing in England, scoring just 79 runs in the two ODIs. However, MSD is not one to be bogged down under pressure. One of the greatest finishers in the game, Dhoni will certainly look to silence his critics today. Watch out for that helicopter shot coming your way!

Yuzvendra ChahalA quick learner and more importantly, one unafraid to be hit, leg-spinner Chahal will be vital on Dubai pitches, especially with reports emerging that the strip might tend to be sluggish with high temperatures in the first session and the absence of dew under lights later in the game. Chahal, who has picked 45 wickets in 26 ODIs with a healthy economy rate of 4.72, can help stem the flow of runs in the end.

Kuldeep YadavEven more than Chahal, all eyes will be on Chinaman bowler Kuldeep, who grabbed six wickets in four overs during the first T20I against England at Old Trafford this year. Kuldeep’s variations could pose major problem to the opposition batsmen, specially when pitches in the subcontinent assist spinners.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Medium pacer Bhuvneshwar, who suffered a lower back injury during the third ODI against England at Headingly on July 17, returned to form with three wickets during India A’s 124-run win over South Africa ‘A’ at Bengaluru. Bhuvi, who clocks 140kmph, has a natural ability to swing the ball both ways. His knuckle ball has been his lethal weapon of late that has flummoxed many opposition batsmen. The clash against Hong Kong would be the perfect warm-up for Bhuvneshwar, also very good with the willow lower down the order, ahead of Wednesday’s biggie against Pakistan.