Former champions India and Pakistan will face off on Sunday in a Twenty20 World Cup blockbuster in Dubai and the buzz around the game underlines the enduring appeal of the matchup between the sub-continent’s feuding neighbours.
There’s no doubt that the contest between the sub-continental giants will attract global interest even beyond the cricket fraternity. But both the teams, with face-offs having become as rare as a hailstorm in the Emirates, have been trying their best to play down the pressure-cooker scenario associated with the game.
The two teams will meet after a gap of over two years and fans are eagerly waiting for what promises to be a cracking contest. Just like the 50-over World Cup, India are unbeaten against Pakistan in T20 World Cup as well. Both teams have faced each other five times in T20 World Cup and India have gotten the better of their neighbours on all five occasions.
Understandably so. More than earning the brownie points of scoring a win in the match-that-matters-the-most for their respective fans, India and Pakistan would be gunning to get their World Cup campaign off to an ideal start.
Moreover, with both the teams having hardly faced each other in the shortest format of the game – eight matches in 14 years, including the two famous matches in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 – there isn’t too much of personal rivalry on the field.
Statistics show that Pakistan has not beaten India in any of the ODIs or T20 World Cups. “Forget that day,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam shouted. This time we will win. ‘
And Indian captain Virat Kohli said, “We don’t look at what has happened in the past. To me this match is like any other match. I don’t see any difference here. The atmosphere in the stadium is a bit different. But there is no difference in our mentality, preparation, style of play. ‘ Cricket fans waiting to stumble upon a TV screen. It is as if the cricket war is raging.
In this respect, India will be hoping that Varun Chakravarthy, the mystery spinner touted to be India’s X-factor, will spin his web around the Pakistan batters, none of whom having faced him earlier.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be looking forward to captain Babar Azam to guide its relatively inexperienced unit to glory. The fact that he will have the guidance of old war-horses Shoaib Malikand Mohammad Hafeezin the team – both of them feature in the 12 announced on Saturday – will certainly help it soak in the big-match pressure.
Both Malik and Hafeez were a part of the inaugural T20 edition 14 Septembers ago. For India, it’s only vice-captain Rohit Sharmawho featured in that memorable edition in South Africa. Having excelled as a rookie in 2007, Rohit will be hoping for the likes of Rishabh Pant and Chakravarthy to deliver under pressure.
But more than the rookies, India will be hoping to get the balance right of its team. To resolve the muddle of a back-up bowler remains the key for India to start its crusade to regain the T20 World Cup after a prolonged gap on a winning note.
The tickets for the match were sold out within hours of going on sale after the United Arab Emirate government allowed a 70 percent crowd for the Twenty20 World Cup matches in a relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The South Asian nuclear rivals have only played in multi-national events like the World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007.