Ashwin lauds India's improved death bowling
The reemergence of 36-year old Ashish Nehra, and the emergence of 22-year old Jasprit Bumrah has given India a lot of confidence at the start and end of a bowling innings. Both men have the skills to swing the ball in the Powerplay and then hamper the batsmen later on in the innings with yorkers, something their team-mate R Ashwin thinks is an asset India had been without in the past.
"I think it's a very good if you can punch as a group and especially Ashish, we all know that he is a very experienced candidate," Ashwin said. "He has come in on the back of a very good IPL last year, so we know exactly what his strengths are. He can swing the ball up front and has good abilities to bowl at the death. Bumrah has got a unique action and he has done very well in the IPL for the last couple of years. He can bowl those lethal yorkers again, which we might have been missing in the past few years so that's definitely given us an extra sting."
Nehra, who has played the two World Cups, still bowls at a brisk pace and had recent form in his favour - he took 22 wickets at 20.40 in the last IPL - to return to the Indian team in January 2016. The IPL has been accorded as a reason for Bumrah's rapid progression as well, except in the 20 matches he has played in the tournament, he has averaged 45.64 and his economy rate sits at 8.83. His T20 figures for India - eight matches, average of 16.36 and economy rate of 6.31 - have been more reflective of his work with Gujarat - 27 matches, average of 16.76 and economy of 6.27.
When asked how their good work impacts his own bowling, Ashwin said, "Our death bowling could definitely be much better than what it was in the past so that gives a lot of confidence and we can go about our middle overs with a lot more attacking instinct, to try and pick up wickets to seal things off. That's definitely a positive, but at the end of the day, only I can help myself"
The conditions in the Asia Cup have mostly been seamer-friendly, which has helped the likes of Nehra and Bumrah prosper. MS Dhoni had hoped the tournament would aid in preparing for the World T20 in India, where it is likely the pitches will be batsmen-friendly, if a little slow. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka played on such a surface yesterday and Ashwin, for his part, believes tackling a range of different conditions would help the team get better faster.
"We had a home series in Sri Lanka which was very different. Australia was again different wickets and big grounds and other different conditions, so if we are testing ourselves in different conditions in varied environments, it's good for the team.
"You can't try and beat the conditions. It's very important to go back and understand that it'll not spin a lot, so it's even more imperative that you put the ball in good lengths and try and get away with overs rather than looking to go for wickets because in T20s, more often than not, wickets are given by the pressure rather than the exact skill of the ball and that's what I look to do on such wickets and when there is a window to attack, I'll definitely attack."
India have minor fitness concerns heading into their match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Rohit Sharma, who was hit on the left toe by a Mohammad Amir Yorker, had gone for a scan, though the word from the team management is that there is nothing to worry. Shikhar Dhawan, who had sat out of that game against Pakistan with a niggle, has also recovered.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo