With their powers combined, this is what an India-Pakistan combined XI would look like

Published: February 15, 2015
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These are not the best Indian and Pakistani squads that have ever entered the World Cup but there is genuine unpredictability about both teams that is extremely exciting for the viewer.

Tomorrow, all statistics and records will go out the window – it will be all about which players perform best as a unit under pressure.

But before the big eleven, let us see which team has the better players.

Rohit Sharma versus Nasir Jamshed

The competition for the opening slot is as good as a walk over. All the talk before the World Cup around India’s batting is about Virat Kohli but at almost 28, this World Cup comes at the prime of his career for Rohit Sharma. Sharma has an average close to 39 but he is one of those explosive talents where the stats are misleading.

On his day, Sharma is up there with the most devastating batsmen in the history of the game. Sri Lanka learnt that the hard way last year when Sharma smashed them for 264 runs in an ODI – a knock that included 33 fours and nine sixes. Our entire team often struggles to score 264 runs in an ODI. He is also the only batsman in the history of the game to score two ODI double centuries. With those records, it is baffling that India might just go with Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan as their opening pair.

Nasir Jamshed, a last minute inclusion into the Pakistan squad, has no chance against him. Jamshed has been woefully out of form recently and looked fidgety on the crease against England in the warm up match. Like most left-handed Pakistani batsmen, Jamshed is also highly susceptible outside his off stump. He is likely to struggle against the bounce generated by the pitches in Australia and New Zealand. Put your money on him getting caught up in the slips in the first ten overs.

Winner: Rohit Sharma

Shikhar Dhawan versus Ahmad Shahzad

When it comes to cricket, I am definitely old-school. Despite Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail being my favourite Pakistani opening batting partnership, I am a huge fan of selecting a right-handed and a left-handed opening batsman. For India, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan would form a formidable opening pair but Ahmed Shahzad has grown into a formidable batsman.

Shahzad’s average is a mere 35 compared to Dhawan’s 43 but despite being six years his junior, Shahzad has played more ODIs than him.

With Shahid Afridi and Misbahul Haq retiring from ODIs after the World Cup, Shahzad is one of the favourites to become the next captain of Pakistan’s cricket team. He may not have the mental maturity required for now but he definitely has the self-belief required for a game of this magnitude.

Shahzad does not doubt himself one bit when he walks out to bat and his recent performances have proven many of his doubters wrong. I may be a little biased towards my name sake but I will have to go with our own maverick batsman.

Winner: Ahmed Shahzad

Virat Kohli versus Younus Khan

If I were to make a World XI, it is likely that I would put Kohli in the all-important one down spot in the batting order. Kohli is the natural successor to Sachin Tendulkar in the Indian batting outfit.

Whatever your allegiances, it is a pleasure to watch Kohli bat. His abrasive attitude only adds to the entertainment value. Kohli already has 21 centuries and over 6,000 runs at the age of 26; if he plays at the top of his game for the next 10 years, it is likely that he may smash all the ODI records. Tendulkar scored a century for every 9.2 innings in his career whereas Kohli has scored a century at a staggering rate of one per every 6.8 innings.

As great an asset as Younus Khan has been for cricket in Pakistan, this World Cup comes in the twilight of his career. At 37, we can still rely on Younus to hold the fort steady at one end or keep the strike rate ticking over, but his days as a match winner are over. The humble man from Mardan would probably admit defeat himself against the ferocious talent of Kohli.

Winner: Virat Kohli

Ajinkya Rahane versus Umar Akmal

The first of the really tough ones, with Rohit Sharma up top, Rahane is likely to occupy the middle order. Both players have all the talent in the world but do not always apply themselves completely. Both are prone to the odd shot and lack the mental fortitude to turn them into the absolute best. On their day, both the players can be true match winners.

This World Cup is perfectly poised for Umar Akmal to really announce himself to the world like Inzamamul Haq did during the 1992 World Cup. It seems like Misbah is backing Akmal as Imran Khan backed Inzamam. For a confident player like Akmal, they need to feel loved for them to perform to the best of their abilities. For those reasons, my personal bias and Rahane’s tendency to be a little unsure of himself, I am going to back Akmal for the number four spot.

Winner: Umar Akmal

Suresh Raina versus Misbahul Haq

Suresh Raina has been in and out of the Indian cricket team. The more precarious Yuvraj Singh was often preferred to the more tenacious Raina. Raina does not often steal the headlines but, like Misbah in the Pakistan cricket team, he is indispensable to the Indian side. In a team of match winners, he is the one who does the simple things right. Misbah and Raina play the equivalent of the ‘Makelele’ role in football. Like a midfielder screens the defence, they protect the lower order and like a defensive midfielder allows the flair players to shine, Raina and Misbah allow players like Rahane, Kohli, Afridi and Akmal to play their natural game.

One of the most astounding statistics in ODIs is that Misbah has never scored a century. It is even more astounding that Misbah has an average of 42 despite not scoring a ton ever. It speaks to his consistency and reliability. If there is a batting collapse, I would trust Misbah to steady the ship more than Raina. For the role they are selected to play in the team, I have to go with the player who fulfils that role better.

Winner: Misbahul Haq

Mahendra Singh Dhoni versus Sarfraz Ahmed

Sarfraz Ahmed has proven to be a more reliable option behind the stumps than Kamran Akmal for Pakistan. Some of his knocks lower down the order have reminded Pakistani cricket fans of glory days of Moin Khan sweeping Glenn Mcgrath consistently for boundaries and sixes during the 1999 World Cup. However, with just 36 ODIs under his belt, he is still inexperienced, especially compared to the World Cup winning captain of India.

India would still have been a fantastic team without Dhoni in the past decade but guided by the calming influence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India managed to take all the talent in their team and win the last World cup. Not only is Dhoni completely reliable as a wicket-keeper, he can walk into any team in the world solely based on his batting prowess. The qualities he brings to the team as a captain is an added bonus.

Winner: MS Dhoni

Ravindra Jadeja versus Shahid Afridi

Who will be the all-rounder in the team?

Dhoni trusts and backs Jadeja. Jadeja is certainly proficient with the ball and the bat. He can be trusted to a job with either but I must bow to the talent that is Shahid Afridi.

We all know how explosive Afridi can be with the bat but the real value he brings to the team consistently is with the ball. Afridi has grown into a spinner of some merit; his constant variety is a menace to any batsman in the world. This is likely to be his last World Cup and I fully expect Boom Boom to go out with a bang.

A team with the talent of an India-Pakistan combined eleven can easily afford to carry the luxury of having Afridi in the batting line up. Cometh the hour, Cometh the man, Afridi is a big match player and there is no bigger stage in world cricket than an India-Pakistan match in a World Cup.

Winner: Shahid Afridi

Ravichandran Ashwin versus Yasir Shah

All the talk in the World Cup is surrounding the seaming and bouncy wickets of Australia and New Zealand. The new regulations requiring two new balls from each end were enforced to balance the battle between the bat and the ball. However, I feel the spinners will play a huge role down under this World Cup.

The selection between Ashwin and Shah comes down to a choice of personal spinner. Ashwin is more experienced than Shah but as Shah showed in the warm up match against England, there is a hint of Shane Warne about the young Pakistani leg-spinner.

If the Pakistan-India game was in Sydney, I would be inclined to pick Shah but the game is in Adelaide. The modern cricket game is heavily skewed in favour of the batsmen and Ashwin’s ability to not go for runs gives him the edge. With Afridi already in the side as a leg spinner, Ashwin is likely to bring more variety to the team too.

Winner: Ravichandran Ashwin

Umesh Yadav versus Wahab Riaz

There is one thing separating the two seam bowlers: Pace.

Wahab Riaz can be erratic but he has a couple of yards of pace on Umesh Yadav. As a Pakistani cricket lover, I would always be more inclined towards pace over discipline. The innovative shots and fielding regulations means even balls pitched on a good line and length can go for runs. The bowlers that will make the most difference this World Cup are those who can take wickets.

The last time the two sides met in a World Cup match, Riaz picked a few priceless scalps and I am backing him to do the same tomorrow. Riaz’s action can give him success the same way that Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc have been successful for Australia on the Australian pitches.

Winner: Wahab Riaz

Bhuvneshwar Kumar versus Ehsan Adil

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was touted as India’s answer to a genuine fast bowler, who could swing the ball both ways. For some reason, fast bowlers in India always tend to lose a yard of pace after joining the senior cricket set up. Kumar has shown that he can trouble the Pakistani top order in the past and that experience would put him in good stead for the match tomorrow.

Ehsan Adil is inexperienced and he has shown little to merit an inclusion into the Pakistani squad let alone an India-Pakistan combined XI. I believe Kumar would be happy at the prospect of going after the Pakistani top order with a new ball on the Adelaide pitch whereas Adil does not seem confident in his own abilities – and neither am I.

Winner: Bhuveneshwar Kumar

Mohammed Shami versus Mohammad Irfan

The last spot is the first time a Pakistani player seems the clear favourite pick. Mohammad Irfan has shown that he can cause trouble to any batsman in the world. Despite Wasim Akram singing praises of Mohammed Shami and Shami performing admirably in the Indian domestic setup, he is no match for Irfan.

Irfan is up there with the best left-handed fast bowlers of the world. Not only can he get you wickets but he is extremely economical. If Pakistan is to win the match tomorrow, Irfan has to perform. Irfan versus India’s top order will make for a fascinating contest.

Winner: Mohammad Irfan

Captain: MS Dhoni versus Misbahul Haq

Dhoni and Misbah would be remembered for two of the most successful captains for their own teams but in the shorter version of the game, it is Dhoni that has had more success than Misbah. Misbah tends to be more defensive whereas Dhoni is not afraid to take risks.

For Dhoni’s pedigree of proving that he can lead the team to glory on the biggest stage of them all, I have to pick him for the captain’s armband.

Captain: MS Dhoni

Total: India six, Pakistan six

These are not the best Indian and Pakistani squads that have ever entered the World Cup but there is genuine unpredictability about both teams that is extremely exciting for the viewer. The game tomorrow can genuinely not be predicted with fans of both teams preferring to underplay their team’s chances in the game for once.

All in all, it will make for an exciting contest and as far as the team is concerned, the analysis shows that it’s pretty neck and neck.

India-Pakistan combined XI.

1. Rohit Sharma

2. Ahmad Shahzad

3. Virat Kohli

4. Umar Akmal

5. Misbahul Haq

6. MS Dhoni (Captain)

7. Shahid Afridi

8. Ravichandra Ashwin

9. Wahab Riaz

10. Bhuveneshwar Kumar

11. Mohammad Irfan

Good luck to both the teams!

shehzad.ghias

Shehzad Ghias

A graduate from the LUMS Law School and is running his own theatre production company, Cogito Productions.He works as a theatre teacher at various schools. He tweets @Shehzad89 (twitter.com/Shehzad89)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.