It’s #PakvsInd in the Champions Trophy once again, but can India equalise the score of 2-1?
The Edgbaston cricket ground will be the pinnacle of attraction for the entire cricketing fraternity as India and Pakistan renew their age-old rivalry this coming Sunday. Although the elusive International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy commenced yesterday, you can be assured that the tournament will dive into fifth gear when these two arch rivals lock horns.
Champions Trophy is the only major ICC event where Pakistan has the upper hand over their nemesis. The green shirts have claimed victory twice and suffered defeat just once in a total of three matches.
Both Sarfraz Ahmed and Virat Kohli are coming into this mega event (ICC events) with their first major assignments as captains of their respective sides. Keeping in mind the high intensity of this contest, a lot will depend on how both these players lead their sides, especially under high pressure moments of the match, which is why this match will be a stern test of their captaincy skills and demeanour on the field.
Dealing with pressure
“Cricket is a pressure game, and when it comes to an India-Pakistan match, the pressure is doubled.”
This aforementioned statement was given my none other than Pakistan’s greatest ever captain Imran Khan on the added pressure during an Indo-Pak encounter.
This is true as there is a sense of expectation from fans on both sides of the border as losing from their fierce rivals is simply not an option. Consequently, this builds a lot of pressure on the players to perform and the margin of error is significantly low. This stresses on the importance of being mentally strong, not letting emotions get the better of you, and hence avoid crumbling under pressure. It is in the better interest of the players and sides that they use this pressure test as a source of motivation to bring the best out of them, rather than the other way round.
Where do the teams stand?
India has a fine batting line-up which possesses all three elements – quality, power and depth – which are part and parcel of every top quality ODI side. With the likes of Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni in their ranks, the men in blue will surely pose a problem or two for the opposing bowlers. The relative new faces such as Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav have really impressed whenever given the opportunity and have brought in more solidity and balance to the side.
Rohit Sharma, making a comeback as an opener, and the form of Ajinkya Rahane is a slight worry for the Indian team, but the rest of the batting line-up looks well-oiled for the major event. Skipper Kohli might not have had the best Indian Premier League (IPL) season, but what makes him one of the best batsmen going around is his ability to raise his game at the opportune moment and that is why he would be very keen to prove his critics wrong.
Pakistan, on the other hand, might not have the same batting prowess as compared to India, but our batsmen can clearly take a leaf out of Indian batting and approach the game in a manner which is in line with modern day cricket requirements. Pakistan have been guilty of soaking up a lot of dot balls in the past, evident from the recent West Indies tour, which is why their batsmen should concentrate on strike rotation and take the attack to the opposing bowlers whenever possible.
Pakistan will rely heavily on their middle order which includes Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez to do the bulk of the scoring and they would be hoping that the openers in the shape of Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad come out as it will ease the burden on the batsmen coming below them.
Pakistan’s bowling attack might not as be intimidating as compared to the previous attacks in the past, but it still has the ability to trouble the batsmen if they get the basics right and bring their skills into play entirely.
Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz are all great bowlers on their day, but it is the consistency factor that they lack. Pakistan would ideally want to see their ace bowlers hit the right marks straight away. The real spark of Pakistan’s bowling attack in the recent past has been Hasan Ali who has emerged as a very clever and tireless worker with the ball in hand. He has quickly established himself as one of the go-to bowlers on our side.
The focus of Pakistan’s spinning department will be Shadab Khan, who impressed everyone in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL). This match will be a stern test of the 18-year-old leg spinner as the Indian team comprises of adept players when it comes to spin bowling – which is precisely the reason why pinning high hopes on the youngster will be premature.
On the other hand, it will be a tough pill to swallow for Pakistani fans, but there is no denying the fact that India has a better bowling attack as compared to Pakistan, which is a rare sight, as Pakistan have more often than not been ahead of India in this particular area.
The Indian bowling unit has got all its bases covered with pace bowlers who can move the ball both ways with the brand new Kookaburra and bowl accordingly during the death overs. Over the past few years, Indian bowling has struggled due to lack of pace and the improper execution of death over bowling, but this is no longer the case.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami in the squad, the Indian bowling armoury, especially the pacers, will be a force to reckon with.
The men in blue also have quality spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin who, despite making a comeback after his injury, can come in handy, even in lesser helpful conditions, which is evident from his record away from home. India also has Ravindra Jadeja up their sleeve, someone who had a major impact on the team’s title winning campaign back in 2013.
Considering the dynamics of modern day cricket, the game is not just about batting and bowling well. The team which usually triumphs has to fare well in the third aspect of the match as well, fielding. With the game significantly in the batsmen’s favour, lapses in the field can prove to be very costly and can have a major impact on the outcome of the match.
Pakistan and India have relatively young sides which is why it is vital they put in an extra effort in the field and make the batsmen work for their runs. Ground fielding and catching must be up to the mark as it facilitates the bowlers in the best possible manner.
Fielding will play a major role in the upcoming Indo-Pak clash and both sides will be hoping they do not have an off day in the field, especially the men in green, because it’s as good as giving your opponent the license to hurt you.
By virtue of the performances we have witnessed over the past year or so and the current balance of both sides, it is quite obvious that India will start as favourites, but current form and history tends to take the back seat to an extent in a match of such magnitude.
Pakistan will be the underdog coming into this match, but that should not be the reason for their fans to tone down their expectations. This rivalry is such that a moment of brilliance can change everything in an instant, which is why optimism will be key.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.