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T20 World Cup: Uncertainty on pitch looms as unpredictable Pakistan faces confident India

India faces Pakistan in a high-stakes T20 match at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York on June 9

T20 World Cup: Uncertainty on pitch looms as unpredictable Pakistan faces confident India
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Indian team and Pakistani team

NEW YORK: In the absence of bilateral series, India-Pakistan matches are now found only in multi-nation or global tournaments, which means there’s always an air of excitement and uncertainty which accompanies this high-octane clash.

Come Sunday, and a bustling Long Island region in New York will have a taste of what India-Pakistan rivalry is all about when the two teams clash in a highly-anticipated Group A clash of 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup at the pop-up Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

But heading into this marquee contest, with tight security around due to a previous terror threat, how the drop-in pitches at New York would behave on Sunday has everyone talking about it. With pitches not getting much time to bed in and be more prepared for the mega event, the matches at New York haven’t made for balanced cricket, with ICC acknowledging that they are working hard to get the pitch right for the remaining games at the venue.

Excessive seam movement and highly variable bounce meant it produced really low batting scores in the three matches held here so far, and some safety concerns were raised when Rohit Sharma had to retire hurt after being hit on the shoulder, while Rishabh Pant was hit on the elbow in the clash against Ireland.

From a cricketing perspective, India are high on confidence after demolishing Ireland in their tournament opener. The bowlers were right on the money in all aspects, while impressive batting performances of Rohit and Pant will please them a lot. The only thing they need to ponder over is whether they bring back in-form left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav or not, considering he has a good record of bamboozling Pakistan batters.

Moreover, the familiarity with the stadium also gives India an extra edge, having played against Ireland and Bangladesh (in a warm-up fixture) here since the start of this month. For Pakistan, it is the first time that they will play at New York in this World Cup, which means they don’t have enough duration to adapt and adjust to relatively unknown conditions.

A shocking defeat to co-hosts and debutants USA meant Pakistan’s campaign has been off to a shay start. A defeat against India could complicate the path of qualifying for Super Eight stage for the 2009 T20 World Cup winners.

In preparation for the competition, Pakistan played against Ireland and England, but weren’t able to show the aura of a team which looks in top form across all departments and lost three games. Hence, it came as no surprise that they looked out of sorts in front of a professional USA side.

Their opening combination of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan has been lacklustre, while the rest of the batting order and spin bowling combination isn’t inspiring confidence. If Imad Wasim has recovered well from a side strain which kept him out of USA game, he comes back into the playing eleven.

With conditions being helpful for fast-bowlers, it won’t be a surprise if Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Amir thrive to get Pakistan’s campaign back on the right track. If confidence and belief is India way of doing things currently, then Pakistan have to back on their unpredictability and bouncing back skills to make it a riveting clash on Sunday.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Sanju Samson (wicketkeeper), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Siraj.

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Usman Khan

Match begins from 8pm IST on Star Sports (TV) and Hotstar (mobile)

IANS
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