ICC T20 World Cup: Babar’s Pakistan eye historic win against Kohli’s India
Pakistan will face India in the fourth match of the Super 12s round of the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup 2021 in Dubai on Sunday.
Ahead of the match, the Men-in-Green’s new batting consultant Mathew Hayden was quoted by ESPNCricinfo as saying: “Nothing else that I’ve ever seen throughout various elements of the game that I’ve been a part of ever matches the rivalry between India and Pakistan.”
Those words were unique, not because they were something no one has ever said before but because it is coming from an Australian who played numerous high-intensity Ashes series against rivals England.
However, as Hayden said, when it comes to just sporting rivalry, nothing can come even close to what India, Pakistan clash brings to the table.
There is guaranteed passion, excitement, drama and above all emotions of more than one billion people involved with the outcome of the contest.
It has been the mother of all matches for a long time. Even though both teams are not as competitive as they once used to be, but since these matches are played after a gap of years largely because of political tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours, their importance increased even more.
This will remain a unique contest because it will be the first time when both Pakistan and India will open their campaign by facing their arch-rivals.
Pakistan remained very consistent in the T20Is but of late, their form remained far from satisfactory. In the last 24 months, the Green Caps went on to win 16 matches, second-most behind England which might sound good to many.
However, the other side of the coin is that the Babar Azam-led unit have also played the joint-most number of matches (31) in the world during that duration.
In that time, the Men-in-Green secured home series wins against South Africa, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and an away series triumph against West Indies.
However, they suffered defeats in New Zealand, Australia and England whereas they were also stunned by a weaken Sri Lanka side who clean swept them in 2019 in Lahore.
In that period, wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan was the highest scorer for the team in T20Is with 930 runs at an outstanding average of 66.42 along with the strike-rate of 134.58, which included one century and eight half-centuries in 22 innings.
He is being followed by captain Babar Azam (914 runs at an average of 43.52) and Mohammad Hafeez (521 runs at an average of 37.21).
The bowling department is being led by pacers where Haris Rauf who is the leading wicket-taker with 28 scalps in 21 innings.
Leg-spinner Usman Qadir is second in the list with 20 wickets to his name whereas Shaheen Shah Afridi is third with 18 dismissals.
India have been arguably one of the most in-form teams in the T20Is during the last two years where they have the win percentage of 68 per cent, second best behind England.
In that time, Virat Kohli-led side defeated Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and England while playing at home whereas they also got the better of West Indies, New Zealand and Australia while playing away from home.
It is because of this reason the Men-in-Blue will enter the competition as the favourites to lift the title for the second time.
In the last 24 months, captain Kohli is the leading run-getter for the team in the 20-over format where he has managed to score 709 runs at an average of 64.45 along with the strike-rate of 153.79, which included six half-centuries.
He is closely followed by KL Rahul (658 runs at an average of 36.55) and Shreyas Iyer (446 runs at an average of 34.30).
In the bowling department, pacer Shardul Thakur has been the leading wicket-taker for the 2007 champions with 23 wickets to his name at an average of 19.52 along with an economy-rate of 9.28.
He is followed by leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and pacer Deepak Chahar with 17 and 14 wickets respectively.
Pakistan will come into Sunday’s contest as an underdog, not because they’ve performed poorly in the history of the competition but because of their dismal record against India in the T20Is.
In eight meetings in the 20-over format, the Green Caps have just secured one win, which was back in 2012 in Bengaluru.
One good thing for the Men-in-Green is that two players who contributed significantly in that match are still part of the squad — veteran all-rounders Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.
The duo’s selection in the contingent remained questionable for a long time but it was reported that captain Babar was in favour of having the two senior pros around in a competition as big as the T20 World Cup.
Despite their arrival, the team’s middle-order remains a cause of concern for the management.
With such uncertainty around the team combination, the responsibility will be on the star opening duo of Rizwan and Babar, who averages 52.10 as an opening pair in 10 innings, second-best in the world during the last two years, behind only Australia’s Aaron Finch and David Warner who scored 71.33 runs per innings as an opening pair.
Looking at the team composition in the warmup matches, it is expected that Fakhar Zaman, Hafeez, Malik and Asif Ali will fill in the next four positions in the batting order and they will have the responsibility of providing the much-needed momentum to the innings.
It will be interesting to see how many spinners Pakistan would opt to go in with for the match against their arch-rivals as no one out of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz particularly impressed in the practice matches against West Indies and South Africa.
Two certain individuals in the pace department will be Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali but the third spot is likely to be decided between young Mohammad Wasim Jr and Haris Rauf.
Looking at the pitches thus far in the competition where pacers have dominated the proceedings, it will not come as a surprise if the management will decide to go in with four fast-bowlers and just one specialist spinner.
Even though India’s cricket team now works like a well-oiled machine but they’ve had issues that can be exploited.
It is clear that once again, the team will be heavily relying on their top-order of skipper Kohli, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
However, after that, despite the availability of an abundance of the talent, there are some question marks about whether the selected youngsters will be able to handle the pressure of an India-Pakistan match.
The biggest concern for the management as well as captain Kohli is the form of star all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The 28-year-old has had a horrid time with the bat in hand during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 where while representing Mumbai Indian, he only managed to score 127 runs in 11 innings at an average of just 14.11.
Those numbers look even worse because Pandya has not bowled a single delivery in the whole of IPL and it was one of the primary reasons for Mumbai’s downfall this year.
The Men-in-Blue’s bowling looks pretty settled but the exclusion of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal remains a mystery.
The return of veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is an interesting choice and it will be interesting how many spinners the team will go in with considering India have four spin options in the squad.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium will host the marquee clash on Sunday which will be the 64th match to be played at the venue.
In the first 62 matches, 35 matches have been won by teams batting first whereas 27 times team chasing emerged victoriously.
Pakistan’s Mohammad Hafeez is the third-highest run-getter at the venue with 335 runs behind Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad and Ireland’s Paul Stirling.
Three Pakistan bowlers — Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul — are the leading wicket-takers at the venue in the T20Is with 22, 19 and 18 scalps respectively.
The highest score of 211-3 at the venue was registered by Sri Lanka in the match against the Green Caps in 2013.
Spin has proved to be a more effective option in Dubai where the slow bowlers have managed to claim wickets at an average of 20.77 along with an economy-rate of 6.43 whereas pacers took wickets at an average of 21.76 along with an economy-rate of 7.33.
Pakistan have played 25 matches at the venue where they’ve managed to win 15 and suffered defeats in 10 whereas India have never played a T20 match in Dubai.
For all the latest updates on ICC World T20 2021 – Follow: https://www.bolnews.com/sports/cricket/series/t20-world-cup-2021
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