Finally, the long wait has almost come to an end and we are just four days away from the much-awaited India-Pakistan clash, that is scheduled to take place at Adelaide. This will be the sixth time when both the teams will face each other in World Cup. All their previous five battles have been nail bitters and this time around also it is expected to be the same as soon as MS Dhoni and Misbah-ul-Haq step into the ground for toss. The weather is expected to remain clear throughout the day and there are absolutely no chances of rain.
The defending champions will have their task cut out straightaway as they step into the field to face or bowl the first ball. The pressure of retaining the crown will be there, but they must focus on taking one match at a time so that this pressure doesn’t mount on them. As far as their team is concerned, they look to be one of the strong contenders on paper. MS Dhoni, the captain cool will again look to lead from the front in what might be his last tournament as the captain of the Indian team. Virat Kohli, the member of the India’s World Cup winning team of 2011 and currently one of the best ODI players in the world, will look to take most of the responsibility while batting at number three and if Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are successful in giving team a good start, then it will become relatively easy for Kohli to cash-in on the good start and go for the kill. Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu will then look to bind the middle-order together and score .
In bowling, Dhoni will heavily rely on Mohammad Shami and Mohit Sharma to pick up wickets at regular intervals and for that to happen, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin will have to bowl tight lines and contain the flow of runs from one end. It is expected that Dhoni will rotate his bowlers in almost every match and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel and Umesh Yadav will get games according to the conditions (pitch).
Pakistan’s unpredictability will again be its biggest strength because it has traditionally been capable of mustering performances that no team could plan for. This time around, three of their key players Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Younus Khan will be playing their last World Cup and they’ll like to end it on a high. While going through their remaining squad, I realized that Pakistan actually has some exciting young talents that can destroy any opposition on their day and Sarfraz Ahmed is the best example of this. He has the ability to score at a good pace but whether Misbah opens with him or not still remains a fact to be seen. Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail are very much capable of scoring big but their temperament will hold the key in it.
In bowling, inspite of injured Junaid Khan and Umar Gul, Pakistan still have a pretty decent attack. Mohammad Irfan will be the spearhead and Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil will look to complement him. Yasir Shah, the leggie who will go into the event with just one ODI under his belt, will be a surprise package to the all teams. And as the history says that leggies usually achieve a lot of success in Trans-Tasmanian conditions, so who knows, he might repeat the history in the event.
World Cup History (of their encounters):
1992: India won by 43 runs (Sydney)
1996: India won by 39 runs (Bangalore)
1999: India won by 47 runs (Manchester)
2003: India won by 6 wickets (Centurion)
2011: India won by 29 runs (Mohali)
Both teams are coming into the tournament with series losses but it would be interesting to see how much this would have an affect on them throughout the tournament. In case of the fitness of the players, India now have all the 15 members fully fit. Earlier, Ishant Sharma was ruled out at the last moment and Mohit Sharma was named as his replacement.
On the other hand, Pakistan had some fitness issues earlier but now everything looks settled. Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez who were named initially in the squad, were ruled out due to injuries and Rahat Ali and Nasir Jamshed were named as their replacements.
Key Players to watch Out For
India: Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has been India’s mainstay batsmen across all formats since the ICC World Cup 2011. He has shouldered the responsibility of batting at number three extremely well and helped India win a lot of matches. Kohli was also a key member of the side that won the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. In ODIs, he has hit 21 hundreds till now and with conditions not disturbing his style of batting, he might well turn out to one of the biggest threats to any opposition.
Pakistan: Yasir Shah
The leggie will act as a surprise package to almost all teams in the tournament. He gave a glimpse of what he is capable of doing in the Test series against Australia and New Zealand at UAE last year and if he can stick to his basics on the Australian and New Zealand pitches too, then he’ll surely be difficult to play in these less spin-friendly conditions.
Key Battles to Watch out For
Rohit Sharma v Sohail Khan
India’s Hitman will be up against Pakistan’s Sohail Khan. It’s going to be a fascinating battle as both are in decent touch and the one who will handle the pressure well at the start of their respective disciplines might well seal the deal for his team at the end of the day. Will Sohail trouble Rohit with his swing and steep bounce or will Rohit have an answer to every trick of Woakes? Well, the time will tell about that.
Ahmed Shehzad v Mohammad Shami
The patience of Pakistan’s Shehzad will be up against aggressiveness of India’s Shami. It can be said with utmost surety that if Pakistan are to score above 280, then Shehzad will have to play a solid innings at the top of the order along with Moeen Ali. For that to happen, he’ll have to face Shami smartly for the first ten overs. But if Shami gets him out early, it will actually get tough for Pakistan’s middle-order post a competitive total.
Probable Playing XI
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma
Ahmed Shehzad, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Harris Sohail, Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Irfan, Sohail Khan
Time 09:00 IST