Former Australia speedster Mitchell Johnson feels all-rounder Hardik Pandya could be among the key men when India take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup in UAE on September 19.
The Asia Cup, to be held over the 50 overs format, will be played in the United Arab Emirates, from September 15 and the Indian selectors are to meet in Mumbai on September 1 to pick the squad.
India play their opening game of the competition on September 18 (against a qualifying side), followed by the marquee clash against Pakistan, the very next day.
“Against Pakistan, India’s age-old cricketing rival and neighbour, and keeping UAEs pitch conditions in mind, I think seamers like Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya would work in India’s favour,” Johnson, an expert commentator with Star Sports for the Asia Cup, told PTI.
“Pandya is currently doing well in the United Kingdom, where he is utilising the conditions well.
Pandyas ability to extract pace from pitches and smartly bowling at length when required will help knock out the tricky Pakistani batting line-up.
I am actually excited to see the way Umesh Yadav will bowl in the Asia Cup,” said Johnson.
“Yadav’s biggest asset lies in the ability to choke an opposition at crunch times along with knocking opponents out with variations/reverse swing during his spells.
Yadav, along with Pandya and (Jasprit) Bumrah, can perfectly set up the situation for the spinners who would be carrying the mantle of negotiating matches through the middle overs,” explained Johnson, who has 313 wickets to his credit from 73 Tests.
Hardik picked up his first five-wicket haul in Tests in the third Test against England that helped his side to win the contest and keep the five-game series alive.
Johnson, however, did not discount that Pakistan will hold an advantage over others in the continental showpiece as they have the experience of playing in the UAE.
“Pakistan will have an upper hand and will enjoy playing in UAE due to its prior experience of playing in the PSL (Pakistan Super League) and knowing the weather/pitch conditions inside out,” he said.
Johnson, who also played in 153 ODIs, also feels that the tournament could go down as the one dominated by the bowlers.
“The pitches in UAE have traditionally produced belters, but with the bowling line-up all the teams possess currently we might remember this year’s tournament as the bowlers’ tournament,” he remarked.