So who would have thought it's going to be India vs. Pakistan again? Words which bring a myriad of emotions to a cricket fan. Adrenaline running high! Superlative performances that bring both nations to a standstill! The mother match of the year for many people, not just Indians and Pakistanis, but millions around the world also love to watch this intense rivalry.
It's a dream come true for the marketing men to have an India vs Pakistan match because the stadium becomes overbooked, millions are glued to their screens, and restaurants are packed all day. What more could ICC want?!? Let’s just hope it becomes every inch as big a cricketing spectacle as we all are hoping. But will it be one? The last time these two teams locked horns with each other was in March 2016 (in WT20), & everyone knows they don’t play each other because of the political situations. But I wonder though, if their rivalry has faded a little bit because maybe the quality of players coming out of Pakistan are not quite the kind of that we used to see earlier. The likes of Imran, Javed, Wasim, Saqlain, etc. are nowhere to be found in Pakistan let alone the world. These names used to send chills down the spines of every Indian fan. For example, in 1980s, Pakistan had a clear edge over India, winning 19 matches while India managed to win just 9. And that changed considerably closer to the new millennium, especially in World cups, where Pakistan just couldn’t beat India. The tally in ICC major tournaments goes like 13-2 in India’s favor
Cricket has changed over the years. There are two things – one: has the rivalry simmered? Two: or is the quality of the teams same? Well if you ask me, the lack of Pakistan and india playing cricket against each other around the year has only created or added to the excitement. Even ICC acknowledges that by saying that they have created a structure so that both the teams can play. They make sure the groups (A and B) are such that they have an India-Pakistan match. But, on the other hand, doesn’t that mean that there are not enough sub-plots developing? I think you would remember those days when Saleem Malik & Moin Khan would always get run against India and you remember those sub-plots, and today those sub-plots are not really there – the anticipation of modern greats like Akram & Tendulkar slugging it out, Akhtar’s raw pace against Dravid’s perfect technique & Ganguly attacking Saqlain – the mouthwatering contest every fan waited for when India played Pakistan isn’t there anymore.
India and Pakistan at an ICC event, no matter what, even if India is ranking #1 and Pakistan at #20 or if it is the other way around, is going stir curiosity and immense anticipation. And this is what will happen for the second time in this tournament! Both teams started off their campaign against each other and today one of them will emerge victorious, with a trophy at their disposal. While the other will just ponder for days on where they went wrong, how close they were and still couldn’t make it. With the recent performances and a pinch of history, I believe its Pakistan who will be victorious on the day. even though India’s CT13 (champions trophy) campaign has been very successful with no loss, followed by beating England comprehensively in their last ODI series here and now the finals of CT17. On the other hand, Pakistan was the first to get knocked out of the CT13, lost their recent ODI series in England by 1-4 but they have managed to reach the finals of CT17 somehow even after losing their first match against India. So, I'm sure Pakistan CAN win.
India is defending champions & seem to be the current favorites at this championship. The world is waiting to see what the both the champions come up with; they are holding their breath at what India can do. Teams ideally want to play eight batsmen and six bowlers. Only when at full strength, and on paper, can a team claim to have that heavenly balance. India are in that category because of their strength, in-form bowling and the ability to bat well, is a major factor. India’s only worry is their bowling. On some days their bowlers just lose their line and length as if they are street bowlers. They must lead the challenge with the ball but with their inconsistency they wouldn’t make it to the hill top. This tournament is going to be about early wickets because that is still the best way to prevent a late over carnage. India looks a much more settled side than Pakistan at the moment because they seem to have more bases covered although they haven’t had a close match. Even though they set a target for Sri Lanka, that they thought was enough but wasn’t quite. India is still in a daunting form overall. India has a line of good batting, beginning shikhar dhawan who scores relentlessly - 317 runs (1 ton, 2 half centuries and a 40+) in 4 matches with an average of 79.25 and a strike rate of over 100 this year, Rohit Sharma who scored two double hundreds in an ODI match with a 264 runs in an innings and with the likes of Virat Kohli who is their death striker. India’s middle order has not been exposed as yet so let’s see what happens today.
Pakistan on the other hand has not been so good in the bowling department during the PowerPlay in this championship. They have only managed to get 3 wickets in 4 matches at an economy of 4.87 at an average of 65. This can be related to the struggling of lead fast bowlers to take wickets in the early phase of the game. With M. Amir being inconsistent – having only 2 wickets under his belt with a best bowling performance of 2/53 in 3 matches at an average of 67.50 and an economy of just 5. Not very impressive. Pakistan’s brutal uprising in the tournament, reaching to the final, after the humiliation at India’s hand can be credited to its two bowlers and one opening batsman (Fakhar Zaman). Starting with Junaid Khan who has been a nightmare with the old ball, taking 7 wickets in 3 matches with an average of under 20 & Hassan Ali, who is the lead wicket taker in the tournament with 10 wickets with an impressive average of 17.20 at an economy rate of four and a half. Pakistan’s captain doesn’t have to worry about the middle overs where his bowlers have been outstanding so far. Between 11-40 overs, Pakistan has taken 18 wickets (most by any team) with an economy of 4.40 (best among all teams). This is where Pakistan can change the face of the game, right when the opposition starts to settle in. This 30 overs phase is the reason why they have been so good at restricting the teams under 250, putting the pressure on the batsmen to score freely. And India has been the strongest during this phase with an average of around 100. They have been so good at snatching runs from the hands of the fielders and keep the score board moving. This leads them to be in a better position before the last ten overs, where they have wickets in hand and they ‘explode’ as we have seen in the first match against Pakistan. India’s middle has not been exposed, they haven’t had a chance to showcase their power and ability. But if Pakistan choose to play in a calm and composed fashion like they did with England (who were also favorites, mind you!) then nothing can stop them from being victorious today. Pakistan will have to play their best A-game today.
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