It is the biggest rivalry in cricket, and it was supposed to be a cracker of a match, but in the end, the T20 World Cup campaign opener ended in a whimper, with Pakistan beating India by 10 wickets.
Openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan remained unbeaten on 68 and 79 respectively.
By this win, the Babar Azam-led team broke a 30-year-old World Cup jinx – it’s Pakistan’s first win in 13 attempts against India at a global event.
India has won seven ODI and five T20 World Cup games since they first met in Sydney in 1992.
Earlier, having been asked to bat first, India was pushed to the brink early — with Rohit Sharma going for a duck and KL Rahul for 3. Then Indian skipper said Virat Kohli (57) and Rishabh Pant (39) fought back, taking India to a respectable total of 151/7 in 20 overs.
Fast-bowler Shaheen Afridi rocked India with the wickets of Rohit Sharma (0) and KL Rahul (3) in his first two overs. Suryakumar Yadav, promoted ahead of Ishan Kishan, was caught behind off Hasan Ali for 11.
Kohli, along with Pant (39 from 30 balls), added 53 runs for the fourth wicket.
After losing the toss, Kohli said India would have batted first as well if he had won the toss. Pakistan captain
Kohli said: “We are pretty happy with setting the target. We would have bowled first too, but the toss is not in our control. We are pretty balanced with our squad and you need to be prepared for it. We need to stay as professional as possible. All over the world, everyone watches it closely. We can use that as a motivation, but we need to ensure we don’t get too emotional.”
What Babar Azam said, “We’ll look to take early wickets and put pressure. Dew is also a big factor.”
Given the emotions that an India-Pakistan cricket match generates in both nations, both Virat Kohli and Babar Azam, the two captains, have said it is “just be another game”. However, for the millions watching at home, the chance to beat their neighbours on the pitch comes but rarely.
Kohli, India’s talismanic captain, will want to bring the curtain down on his T20 captaincy with the first ICC trophy under his leadership.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya holds the key to India. If he is able to return to bowling, Kohli would feel comfortable going in with two other front-line pacers. But if Pandya can’t bowl, the management would be forced to play an extra all-rounder to find the sixth bowler.
Whether India play Ishan Kishan or Suryakymar Yadav will also be critical. The Jharkhand batsman made a strong case for himself in the opening warm-up game against England by smashing 70. Yadav did not impress in the first practice match but played an assured knock of 38 not out in the second against Australia. With Kohli confirming that KL Rahul will open with Rohit Sharma, the battle for the No 5 spot is likely to pick up.
At least for the opening clash, India could play both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The debate on choosing between the two continues to rage. While Jadeja has more or less become an automatic selection due to his improved batting abilities, Ashwin’s impressive spell against Australia, along with the experience he brings to the table, could work in his favour.
As for Pakistan, Azam and his wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan are the most important members of the squad. The two are currently the highest run-getters across T20s this year and share 29 50-plus scores between them.
As always, the focus will also be on the Pakistani pace attack, comprising of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali. Afridi will once again lead the attack.
Pakistan also boast veteran all-rounders. Be it Shoaib Malik or Mohammad Hafeez, Azam will not be short of experienced players.
Date and Venue:
Sunday, October 24, Dubai International Stadium, Dubai.