Roads empty, traffic stuttered, jerseys donned in blue and green, you would find more cheer in a graveyard than at schools. The scenes from the Indian subcontinent when the two rival nations, India and Pakistan face off each other not in a war of weapons but a Cricket field. Over 1.8 crore eyes stuck to their screens to watch the India-Pakistan game at the T20 Cricket World Cup 2022. That’s how much the two countries have a craze for Cricket. In India it is like a religion and for Pakistanis, Cricket is that ray of hope that shines once in a blue moon. Cricket fanatics from both countries crave for their teams to face off either in an ICC tournament or the Asia Cup. As a bilateral series between the two teams is a thing of history, that has become a legend now.
Much of the same is expected when both Cricketing giants lock horns on 2nd September at the Asia Cup 2023. The delight could well be doubled only if Nepal doesn’t pull off a miracle in Group A. The last encounter between these two teams at the T20 World Cup 2022 turned out to be an enthralling contest as India won a last-ball thriller. Off late we have seen a balance between these two sides as India always had the upper hand over the Shaheens at the ICC tournaments where India turned out victorious at all 7 occasions in ODI World Cups. However things in the last 2 years seem to be changing with Pakistan winning the T20 World Cup 2021 game, then a game at the Asia Cup 2022, and two close encounters one each at the previous Asia Cup and T20 World Cup game. However, in Asia Cup ODIs the score is evenly poised with India winning 7 and Pakistan winning 5 games.
India’s ODI game has always been top class as they reached the semi-finals stage in 3 consecutive World Cups and triumphed in one of them. They are also the last ODI Asia Cup champions. Much of the contribution in their wins has been from their top 3 batters with Virat Kohli being the standout performer. Kohli has an outrageous record against Pakistan in ODIs. He has an average of 48.73 with a whooping strike rate of 96.23. He has 2 centuries and 2 50s to his name against the arch-rivals and has always stood tall when the stakes are high. He has his highest score of 183 against Pakistan and that too in the Asia Cup, in 2012. He was the difference maker in the World Cup 2022 game. We cannot rule him out ever in such a high-stakes game. But much might change and we might see some new stars and some rivalries brewing with the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and not to forget batting maestro Babar Azam coming up the ranks for Pakistan. And for India Shubman Gill and Suryakumar Yadav add to the Indian batting prowess.
It has always been between Pakistan’s bowling and India’s batting. One such matchup we might certainly see is Shaheen Afridi with the new ball against Shubman Gill. The unerring eagle with fire in his eyes against the silky smooth Shubman Gill would be a treat for the fans. India has a solid top order with Rohit, Gill, Kohli, and finishers in Suryakumar and Hardik Pandya, and Pakistan with their lethal fast bowling attack referred to as the 4 letter word that starts with S by the Indian Coach Rahul Dravid, a fiery contest is on the cards. And to add to that Pakistan’s batting prodigy and World Number 1 ODI batter Babar Azam who has only descended with time might have some surprises up his sleeve. He has 5 innings against India and not reached 50 even once. His stats against India do not depict how mighty a batter he is and he could be anything on a given day.
If we talk about the venue where the first match between the two will be played, is the Pallekele International Stadium in Kandy. 8 ODIs have been played here in 2022 where the team batting first has won 4 games and the chasing team has won 3 with one match ending with no result. The average first-inning score in these 8 games has been 276 which is a very competitive total here. The Pacers have taken 62 wickets here while the spinners have grabbed 56 scalps. The batsmen have had more impact as 5 out of 7 Man of the Match awards have gone to the batters.
The new ball will be very important for both the batting and fielding sides. Pakistan might have an upper hand in this phase because of the quality of the Pacers. The spinners have to put brakes in the middle phase of the innings, the batting side which negotiates spin well will be winning this spell and India might be winning this phase as recently Pakistan’s batting against the spinners has been in question recently. The third phase is very crucial, India has the finishers that can finish the game well but Pakistani pacers have kept most teams quiet in the death overs. This will be an interesting battle to see. While Pakistan is still in search of that one finisher.
This game hangs delicately in the balance, poised to soar in any direction. The ultimate decider will not solely depend on physical prowess or tactical brilliance Instead, it will be a test of the unwavering nerves, and the ability to rise above the immense pressure that comes with carrying the hopes of the nation on their backs.