In a high-octane clash, it is going to be Pakistan, who will face arch-rivals India in the much-awaited blockbuster on Super Sunday, in their 2017 ICC Champions Trophy opener which has been further dubbed as a ‘mini-final’ and die-hard fans from both sides are ready to back their respective teams as the history suggests it has always been more of a political scene, in the gentleman’s game.
India-Pakistan games have been more of an enriching narrative, which has further covered its all plots by giving their best on the field with the bat and a ball respectively.
However, in the recent past, the players have shared camaraderie off-the-field before wrestling it on for respective countries throughout the years.
Pakistan would enter into the eight-day tournament as the dark horses as they have lost the plot particularly in the 50-over format in the recent past under the tutelage of Azhar Ali that has not only pushed them to number eighth position on the ICC ranking but has witnessed them rely on their traditional approach while chasing down the targets which is a threat to its own cause.
After announcing a 15-member squad, talented but brash Umar Akmal, who was recalled into the side following improved fitness, was sent back from England after failing two fitness tests as he was timely replaced by left-handed middle-order batsman Haris Sohail.
However, the underdogs even after giving out unpredictable performances which considerably makes them a threat for the rest of the teams.
Pakistan would wholly rely on their senior campaigners with the likes of Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali in particular.
As newly ushered prime minister Sarfraz Ahmed has made his verdict that there is ‘nothing to lose out on’ could be seen as a way to play out the pressure tactic which would not hold true particularly when Pakistan is playing its neighbouring country India.
Moreover, former skipper Azhar Ali, who is an ideal choice in English conditions, was picked by selectors to strengthen the top-order alongside Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez.
However, his role is more of an anchoring the innings which could prove helpful for the side that has been struggling with the bat in crunch games.
Pakistan has nothing much to boast about in particular, but history suggests they have been better with the ball than their batting in the past.
The batting looked dismal as fluctuating performances had led the team down even after bowlers have had been trying their best on the placid surfaces.
However, with both departments struggling, the men in green have been sweating it out to give their best against formidable India, who has a better record over Pakistan in ICC’s events other than Champions Trophy.
As the selectors have a firm belief in the Men in Green, the management has added the variety in the bowling line-up which further has been boosted by bowling all-rounder Fahim Ashraf, who could add impetus with his late-order blitz if left-hander happens to get a game against Men in Blue.
Considering the fact of India playing spin well, there are slim chances of Shadab being inducted into the side straight away as Imad Wasim has been their go-to spinner which could be assisted by experienced Shoaib Malik.
Pakistan, on the other hand, leads India by 2-1 in the ICC Champions Trophy as they went on to lose their last edition’s fixture in 2013 against India. Moreover, in the seventh edition of ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan lost its all three matches in its group.
Tracking The Strength:
The X-factor could be Babar Azam, who has the knack of spending quality time at the crease, is further capable of shouldering the responsibility at the top against the quality bowling line-up of Virat Kohli-led India.
Moreover, it’s going to be the numbers battle between batting sensation Virat Kohli and Pakistan pacer Junaid Khan, who has enjoyed latter’s wicket thrice in four matches.
Interestingly, in 22 deliveries Kohli has just scored two of Junaid and it would be a fascinating battle to watch out how batting star would tackle the Swabi-born bowler.
The leg-spinner Shadab Khan has been picked as a surprise element in the team, who looks confident to deliver in the mega event as he is a man with a bagful of tricks.
Coming to the conclusion, it would be interesting to see how the rookie spinner would fair against India which has a depth in batting line-up and a history of playing spin well owing to the home conditions if he would happen to be the part of the decent bowling attack.
Moreover, of late Rohit Sharma struggled against leg-spinners in the recently concluded India Premier League (IPL) where he was found wanted by Rashid Khan and Samuel Badree early on.
The talented bowling line-up would be tested against India which has covered it’s all bases while having the aggressive Virat Kohli at the helm, who would test the decent pace battery of Pakistan.
Mohammad Amir, who would be in England for the second after infamous Lord’s Test, to participate in the mega event would be an interesting bowler to watch out for as he is capable of getting under the skin of an opponent.
Pakistan has infused the young talent based on their recent performances at the international and domestic level.
As Pakistan would be aiming to extend its dominance, in the multilateral event, they have to give their best in all departments against India which seems an uphill task at the moment.
They have never claimed the ICC Champions Trophy which further saw the team losing semi-finals thrice since the inception of the tournament in 1998, as the first trophy was lifted by South Africa.
Interestingly, Pakistan Cricket Team has a chequered history which has been further marred by controversies and spot-fixing scandals, but they had that knack of producing remarkable results which could surprise the cricketing fraternity.
We are predicting team batting second could win the match and the predictable score is expected around 290 if Pakistan bats first either winning or losing out on the toss.
India is highly likely going to emerge as winners and their predictable score is 310 if they would bat first. However, the overcast conditions in the past couple of days could see captains opting to bowl first.
As Edgbaston has been witnessed having grey skies in the last one week, it would be a huge task for a skipper like Sarfraz, who is leading his side for the first time in the mega event, but considering the fact, he has had led Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Quetta Gladiators, in the both editions of the lucrative league which further saw the team reaching the finals while losing out against Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
ICC Champions Trophy in numbers for Pakistan:
Pakistan has qualified for the semi-final thrice in 2000, 2004 and 2009 respectively. Mohammad Yousuf has scored most runs for Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy. He has amassed 484 runs in 13 matches which included three fifties.
Interestingly, Pakistan’s highest score in the ICC Champions Trophy came against India on September 26, 2009, when they posted 302 on board.
Shoaib Malik holds the record of individual scored of 128 against India in 2009.
Shahid Afridi had claimed the best figures in an innings in 2004 when he bagged five wickets against Kenya after conceding 11 runs.
Interestingly, Younis Khan had captained Pakistan for most number of matches in the multilateral tournament. He led the national side in six matches.
Saeed Anwar has scored two hundreds in his four matches of the ICC Champions Trophy which is most by any Pakistani player.
Here’s the predicted XI of Pakistan:
Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (skipper and gloveman), Imad Wasim, Fahim Ashraf, 10 Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan