It's one thing to expect your fast bowlers to be disciplined, another to set fields and challenge the batsmen to take risks. This is what Rohit Sharma did superbly as captain on Sunday, as India arrested Pakistan's late surge and then chased down 238 in a canter to make it four wins on the trot in the Asia Cup. After Bangladesh held their nerve against Afghanistan, India were confirmed as the first finalist. ESPNcricinfo examines a few of Rohit's tactics that hurt Pakistan on Sunday.
Keeping Fakhar Zaman quiet
Fakhar Zaman is Pakistan's enforcer at the top, a factor coach Mickey Arthur has underlined as the key to their ODI success. Earlier this year in Zimbabwe, Fakhar became the first ODI double-centurion from Pakistan and has formed a formidable opening combination with Imam-ul-Haq.
So when Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah kept cutting off Fakhar's scoring areas by bowling stump-to-stump on a length, denying him room to pull and play flat-batted strokes, Rohit deliberately kept mid-on a touch wide and left midwicket open. Since the angle from right-arm over the wicket takes the ball away, he was trying to play on Fakhar's ego by forcing him to hit into the vacant region on the leg side. As it turned out, Fakhar stopped short of playing the pull and had limped to 6 off 24 balls at the end of seven overs.
Introducing spin early
Rohit isn't one for making changes unnecessarily. Not bowling Kedar Jadhav against Bangladesh despite him having picked career-best 3 for 23 against Pakistan when the sides last met was a prime example. But when Fakhar and Imam were struggling to force the pace, he sprang up a surprise by introducing Yuzvendra Chahal in the eighth over.
It was left-field because Chahal had only bowled four Powerplay overs in ODIs prior to Sunday. Two days ago against Bangladesh, he was introduced in the ninth over. Here, he struck off his sixth delivery as Imam was given out lbw upon review after he was beaten by sharp turn trying to work the ball with the spin. It was Chahal's first Powerplay wicket in ODIs.
Forcing Sarfraz-Malik to deviate from set template
In the previous game between the two sides, Babar Azam misread a Kuldeep Yadav googly that dipped and spun away to castle him. If bringing Kuldeep on in the 11th over was more to get on the batsman's nerves, it was a ploy well thought out.
With the left-right combination in place, Rohit operated spin in tandem. The stand-out move was having a backward short leg for Fakhar, who struggled against sharp turn. With no fine leg for protection, there were runs to be had if he could paddle the ball fine. Fakhar tried this against Chahal and was almost beaten by the bounce and got a top-edge that just eluded Dinesh Karthik and rolled to fine leg.
The spin choke was on, and because the fast bowlers had built so much pressure, Fakhar was forced to look for a release against spin. Fifty-six balls hadn't yielded a boundary. Drying up boundaries meant pressure and he fell after he was thrown off balance trying to slog-sweep an overpitched Kuldeep delivery. Then when Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz came together in the 16th over, Rohit immediately brought back Bumrah instead of letting the game drift. Malik's average of 45.01 against spin is significantly higher as compared to his 34.78 against pace. His strength lies in manipulating the field and playing percentage cricket before exploding in the end overs. By not feeding his strengths, Rohit forced Malik to alter his plans immediately.
No chopping and changing
Rohit bats for continuity, having been in and out of the Test squad himself. At the arrival press conference in the UAE, he made it clear experimentation for middle order spots wouldn't come at the cost of continuity and results. Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik have been the biggest beneficiaries of this policy at the Asia Cup. Batting at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively, the pair have made the most of the whatever little batting time they have had. The flip side to the ploy has been time on the bench for KL Rahul.
Another noteworthy aspect has been Rohit's ability to separate captaincy and batting. It has helped, of course, that barring the Hong Kong game, India haven't really been challenged. When they last played Pakistan, Rohit played out a testing opening spell, before he decided to hook Usman Khan out of the attack by hitting him behind square for three sixes. That he's coming off a two-month break - he wasn't picked for the England Tests - has also allowed him to remain mentally fresh for the rigours of playing in the UAE heat. After four games, he has scores of 111*, 83*, 52 and 23.