The most sought-after megastars of the current generation are primed to show their might against a bunch of enigmatic cricketers as India and Pakistan engage in an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup face-off, here on Sunday.
The sensitive nature of the cross-border relationship between the neighbours has led to minimal sporting engagements and cricket has always become the vehicle of one-upmanship for fans on both sides. In terms of numbers, India has an all-win record against its arch-rival at the T20 World Cup since its inception in 2007.
Incidentally, all the matches were won under MS Dhoni, who will be there on skipper Virat Kohli’s ears by donning the hat of a mentor. This is a fixture that everyone awaits in the global event – the fans because of its novelty factor, the ICC and the broadcasters for filling up the coffers. Everyone is invested, be it emotionally, like the fans, or materially, like the other stakeholders.
But, the Kohlis, the Rohit Sharmas and the Jasprit Bumrahs don’t carry any baggage despite the blip in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. On Sunday, the Pakistanis will have a lot more to prove than their Indian counterparts. The likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf and its uber-cool captain Babar Azam will have to be at their best if Pakistan hopes to break the World Cup jinx against a world-class team.
However, it will be easier said than done against an Indian side whose players are coming into the tournament with a heavy dose of IPL matches in the UAE.
For India, its strength is a cracking top-five that comprises Rohit, KL Rahul, Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant. India’s problems are going to be the tail and the absence of a sixth bowler as Hardik Pandya is set to be played purely as a batter. In the bowling department, Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy pick themselves in the playing eleven.
The two main players for Pakistan will be skipper Babar, an all-format superstar, and left-arm pacer Shaheen. The two old men in Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will be keen to settle scores with India.
Sri Lanka takes on Bangladesh
Sri Lanka will rely heavily on its bowling unit to make up for its relatively weak batting department while Bangladesh would look for consistency when the two teams clash in a Super 12 Group 1 match in Sharjah on Sunday. Both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who are spin-heavy teams, had to go through the First Round to secure their places in the Super 12s.