After two years and four months, arch-rivals India and Pakistan will resume their rivalry at the grandest stage of them all.
All roads will lead to the Dubai International Stadium on October 24 as Virat Kohli's men aim to extend their proud record in World Cups against their Asian neighbors. For Pakistan, it will be yet another opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and do something their previous generations couldn't do: beat India in a World Cup fixture.
India and Pakistan have played a huge role in revolutionizing the T20 format. It is fair to say that their dual encounters during the inaugural T20 World Cup captured the imagination of the world.
However, since then, the rivalry per say has failed to live up to the billing in T20 WC fixtures. The last three meetings between these two sides’ have had the same narrative- Pakistan bats first and huffs and puffs to an underwhelming total and a certain Virat Kohli walking past the target with ridiculous ease.
Will it be different this time around? Well, Pakistan certainly has the ammunition. They have the finesse of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, the volatility of Fakhar Zaman, the experience of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the X-factor in Hasan Ali, and the pace of Shaheen Shah Afridi.
But, as is often the case in Indo-Pak encounters, it is the ability of players to hold their nerves in crunch moments which will ultimately decide the fate of the contest. In the past, even superior Pakistan teams have been guilty of being reckless against the ‘No.1 enemy’, and that perhaps explains why they weren’t able to beat India in world events in the 90s despite them being a better team than the Men in Blue.
Mental baggage plays a huge role in elite sports. No matter how much players shrug off the fact that history doesn’t play on their mind, given the fact that they are consistently reminded of it by fans, pundits, and on social media, it is virtually impossible to not think about it.
However, it also depends on individuals and their thought-process. If they are sitting there in the dressing room on the eve of the game- ‘Oh, we have never beaten these guys in World Cups in the past. It will be tough’ then it will lead to additional pressure. But if there are guys out there, who say- ‘Wow, this is a great opportunity to make history!’, then the mindset will be completely different when they take the field on October 24.
As for Team India, they are a well-oiled unit that is better accustomed to handling the pressure of expectations than their opponents, given the exposure they get at both international and IPL level.
Come Sunday, it will once again be a case of doing the basics right and letting the process take its course.
- India and Pakistan are the two most successful sides in T20I cricket in the last 4.5 years. While India has won 43 games in 67 matches, Pakistan has won 42 in the same number of fixtures.
- Virat Kohli- 169 runs in 3 innings- is the leading run-scorer for India against Pakistan in T20 WC. Kohli is yet to be dismissed by Pakistan in the marquee event.
- Shoaib Malik- 100 runs in 5 innings at 20- is the leading run-getter for Pakistan against India in the tournament.
- Irfan Pathan (6) and Mohammad Asif (5) are leading wicket-takers for their respective sides in T20 WC encounters.
- India and Pakistan have met five times in T20 WC with the Men in Blue emerging victorious in each of those fixtures.
Players to watch out for:
- KL Rahul: The stylish opener is in ridiculous form at the moment. After having hit 600+ runs in the IPL, Rahul smashed England and Australia to all corners in the warm-up fixtures. He will be key to India's fortune at the top of the order.
- Rohit Sharma: Sharma smashed Pakistan bowling to pieces in his last outing during the 2019 WC. He smoked a nonchalant 140 and with him returning to form in the second warm-up game, one can expect the 'Hitman' to strike once again on October 24.
- Virat Kohli: He may not be in the best of touch (by his standards) but write off the 'King' at your peril. He was the leading run-scorer in the T20I series against England earlier this year and is yet to be dismissed by Pakistan in the last three T20 WC's.
- Ravindra Jadeja: The all-rounder is at the peak of his powers as a finisher and with Hardik Pandya not in the best of form, he will be extremely crucial to India's fortunes at the death.
- Jasprit Bumrah: The best fast bowler in the world across all three formats, the best death bowler in the world. It is fair to say that Bumrah will be India's trump card.
- Babar Azam: The Pakistan skipper will look to continue his rich vein of form in one of the biggest games of his career thus far. The No.2 ranked T20I batsman in the world is Pakistan’s second-highest run-getter in the format since the start of 2020. In 20 innings, he has scored 799 runs at an average of 42.05 and a strike rate of 136.58 with 9 50-plus scores and one hundred.
- Mohammad Rizwan: He has comfortably been Pakistan’s best batsman across all formats in the past 12-18 months. In 19 innings since the start of last year, Rizwan has smoked 885 runs at an average of 80.45 and a strike rate of 138.06 with 9 50-plus scores and one hundred.
- Shaheen Shah Afridi: The left-arm seamer is one of the hottest properties in world cricket at the moment. The onus will be on him to knock over India’s top-3 just like Mohammad Amir did in the 2017 CT final.
- Hasan Ali: The all-rounder will be crucial in the middle and death overs with the ball. He will also have to play a huge role as far as providing that final over flourish with the bat.
India - Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd Shami.
Pakistan - Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood