NEW DELHI: Nearly two months after they squared off in the Asia Cup, winning a match each, another high-voltage clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan will take place on Sunday, this time in the ICC T20 World Cup.
A lot is at the stake for both sides as they look forward to starting their campaign at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday.
India and Pakistan met at Asia Cup twice, with India winning the group stage encounter and Pakistan winning the Super 4 clash. Both matches were thrillers and satiated fan's appetite for some classic cricket between the two sides.
After their Asia Cup, India have shown a great form, having won home series against Australia and South Africa, with their batting being an asset in most matches. However, it is their death bowling which has been a matter of some concern especially after the exit of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah due to back injury. Some positive signs were seen during warm-up match against Australia though.
The absence of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has left Team India struggling to find a balance though spinner Axar Patel has proven to be a great like-to-like replacement for his senior left-hander with his bowling. Batting pretty much looks settled for India, with Virat Kohli having regained form, KL Rahul having fired some solid knocks leading up to the match and skipper Rohit Sharma maintaining his aggressive intent at the top.
Pakistan can exploit the absence of left-hand batters from India. The Men in Green are heading into the match after a tri-nation series win over New Zealand and Bangladesh. The series proved to be good preparation for the team.
Babar Azam's men, semifinalists last time in 2021, will be looking forward to clinching the trophy this time around. Its top order consisting of Azam and star batter Mohammad Rizwan is firing on all cylinders and pace leader Shaheen Afridi's participation and good performances in warm-up matches is also a good sign for Pakistan.
However, the inconsistent middle order is a concern Pakistan would like to address. Likes of Fakhar Zaman, Khusdil Shah, Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed have not delivered great performances consistently. Mohammad Nawaz though performed well with the bat in some matches during the tri-series.
India squad for ICC T20 World Cup: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami.