OK. Again Fathers’ Day, another India-Pakistan clash, again in England, this time Old Trafford though; a good 3-4 hours drive from the majestic Lords’ ground in London.
What’s the big deal about an India-Pakistan encounter? Is there any bigger rivalry in cricket. Just a look at other rivalries. Australia-England? Australia-New Zealand? Can you name a third one? I guess No. Because in Cricket, there is nothing bigger than an India-Pakistan match.
Pakistan will always boast off the overall head to head advantage and India will show off their World Cup wins. That’s 6-0; mind you. But their most recent encounter in a global event (barring Asia Cup) was in the Champions Trophy final when Pakistan thrashed the mighty looking Indian side comfortably; riding on the second-life like hundred from Fakhar Zaman at the top and a lethal spell of seam bowling from Amir. Remember, India hammered Pakistan in the opening match of the Champions Trophy as well.
Out of 6 encounters in the World Cup, India has batted first in 5 of them (whether by winning the toss or being put into bat). The only time Pakistan batted first was in Centurian 2003. So Pakistan being not very good chasers, forget that you can chase even a modest total of 225 in the pressure-cooker like situation. So Pakistan would love to bat first and try to post a sequel of CT final. So no matter how the pitch looks like, it’s raining or not, if you win the toss, just bat first and try to post a total as big as possible.
For Pakistan, it’s pretty simple. Top 4 have to score more than 80% of the runs. Can’t expect from the middle/lower middle order. The good sign for Pakistan is that Pakistan’s tail can bat well, and hammer big shot too, but can’t really depend on that. The kind of form Babar Azam is in, he is really unfortunate to not being able to convert into big hundreds. Key players will be Fakhar, Babar, Amir and Shadab. If Amir can get Rohit and Virat at the top in the first spell, things will look much easy for Pakistan. Dropping Shoaib Malik looks a likely event, but then Pakistan will have to play another bowler, that can be Imad/Husnain/Shaheen. And Malik has a good record against India. So Pakistan will probably not drop him. If they do, then Hafeez and Haris will have to bowl 10 overs or play an extra bowler, which probably they won’t.
For India, losing Shikhar Dawan was the big blow. They’ll have to depend on their batting to beat Pakistan. Rohit and Virat, both are in good form and hold the key to building a big total. Bumrah, is highly over-rated. He is highly ineffective on pitches that don’t really offer seam movement. If the pitch is like the one in Australia-India match that didn’t have much for pacers and spinners, it will be a big advantage for Pakistan. For India, key players will be Rohit, Virat, Bhevneshkar and Chahal. If Pakistan can get these two early, and play Bhuvi and Chahal well, they’ll be in a very good position.
If Pakistan wins the toss and bats first, it will be 60-40 favouring Pakistan. And if India bats first, it will be 80-20 India chances.
Written by: Yousaf Rashid