India will look to defend their claim as Asia’s best when they take the field in the 2018 Asia Cup which starts 15 September in the United Arab Emirates.Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will play the tournament-opener in Dubai on September 15, with the title clash being played on September 28 also in Dubai.India will open their campaign against Hong Kong, who had defeated UAE in the final of the qualifiers, on September 18 in Dubai and then play arch-rivals Pakistan at the same venue.Rohit Sharma will be leading the Indian team in absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, who has been rested keeping in mind his heavy workload.READ – MS Dhoni’s chance to answer critics after average England seriesAnd on Thursday afternoon, Rohit led nine members of the Indian team to Dubai, with the rest of the players – who competed in the gruelling Test series in England – joining the squad on September 16 after a two-day break.And this is not the first time that Kohli has opted to take a break from a tournament since becoming India’s fulltime captain. (READ FULL STORY HERE)At the previous tournament in 2016 in Bangladesh, which was organised in the Twenty20 format, Kohli was India’s leading run-scorer with 153 runs in their title-winning camping. The current skipper for the upcoming edition, Rohit, was the second best with 138 runs.But that was a different format and the 2018 edition of the Asia Cup will be played in the 50-over format – as the 50-over World Cup is scheduled to be held in England and Wales next year.advertisementREAD – Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and 7 other Team India members depart early for Asia CupKohli was easily India’s best batsman, with 191 runs, in the latest white ball series (the three ODIs against England). Rohit was second best again with 154 runs.So how will the Indian batting line-up cope in the absence of Kohli this time around?READ – Will miss bowling at him: Hasan Ali on Kohli’s absence from Asia CupIn the lead up to the tournament Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali felt Kohli’s absence was good news for his team’s chances, even though he would have liked to have taken the Indian captain’s wicket.”Virat Kohli is a very good player. Everybody knows that he is a match-winner. Though India are still a good side, his absence is going to be an advantage for us. He can drive his team out of pressure anytime and any newcomer won’t be good enough to handle the pressure. I am definitely going to miss bowling at him. It’s natural that every young bowler would like to have his wicket.WATCH – Rohit Sharma & Co. depart for Asia Cup 2018″But it’s okay if he is not coming … I will look for him the next time. I wasn’t targeting Kohli only. We are not going to play only against India as there are other teams [in the tournament] as well. Our main focus is the entire tournament rather than winning one game and losing others. We have do well to beat every team and try to win the tournament,” Ali had said before leaving for the UAE.Kohli was one of the brightest lights in an otherwise gloomy Test series against England, scoring 593 runs at an average of 59.3 in five matches including two centuries.READ – Laxman names Shoaib Malik as real threat for India vs PakistanAs for Kohli’s record against India’s neighbours Pakistan – it is impressive to say the least. He has scored 459 runs in 12 ODIs and that too at an average of 45.90. Kohli also has two centuries, with one of them being his highest ODI score of 183, which came in the Asia Cup in 2012.And according to another Pakistan pacer Faheem Ashraf, India are a world class team despite the absence of number one ranked batsman in ODI cricket.”Look, India even if Virat Kohli is not coming, India is a world class team. So you can’t take them lightly at any time. We are practising with hundred per cent effort, even if it is a batsman or a bowler and even in fielding. Our job is to give hundred per cent in training and, Inshallah (God Willing), we will surely win the match as well,” Ashraf said at a press conference after reaching the tournament venue.So what does Kohli’s absence mean for the Team India at the Asia Cup?The issue can be studied under the light of added pressure for the rest of the Indian batting line-up. But the situation can also be taken as an opportunity for the others to perform and stake a claim in the side running up to World Cup.advertisementWith doubts over India’s best choice batsman for the No.4 and No.6 position, the trio of Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav have a chance to prove themselves. KL Rahul, who capped off a rather disappointing tour of England with a century, will also be itching to be score more runs in Dubai and finalise his seat on the flight to England next year.