We bring to you Sportzwiki’s exclusive preview of the Pakistan v India game in the Asia Cup.
Whichever way you look at it, the clash against Pakistan is a must-win for Virat Kohli’s young side. Pakistan took home the bonus point on Thursday, courtesy their convincing win over Afghanistan, while India, thanks to Kumar Sangakkara‘s heroics, lost a nail-biting clash on Friday. With 4 points from their opening two games, and Sri Lanka having all-but secured their place in the final, Team India will have to raise ther game to overcome a very strong Pakistan outfit. Neither side has performed to the standards they are capable of – the Indian batting collapse midway through the innings on Friday was a testament to the lack of experience in the Indian ranks, and the Indian looked rather toothless against the in-form Sri Lankan batsmen. Pakistan, on the other hand, too have their fair share of problems. The top-order failed to apply themselves after a promising start, while the likes of Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal play with careless abandon.
The worrying signs for India would be that, inspite of being far from their best, Pakistan saw off a promising Afghanistan performance without really moving a muscle. Saeed Ajmal was once again the tormenter-in-chief as the ran through the Afghanistan middle order, and given the poor shot selection from the Indian middle order so far in the Asia Cup, Ajmal has enough to keep himself interested in this high-intensity tie tomorrow. Traditionally, if you take into account the recent history between those two arch enemies, it has been a contest between the Indian batting line-up and the Pakistan’s bowlers. But an inexperienced middle order might put the men in blue at a disadvantage. The player to watch out for in the Pakistan side has to be youngster Ahmed Shehzad, who is spoken of in glowing terms by former players and those associated with the Pakistan domestic circuit. Shehzad has got off to solid starts in the Asia Cup so far, without converting it into a big score. He has the spiky hair and the prominent eyebrows of Virat Kohli, does he have the temperament?
Misbah ul-Haq has said that the batsmen cannot afford to keep repeating the same mistakes, but indicated he is ready to keep faith in the same batting line-up. So Fawad Alam has to wait for his chance, as the likes of Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood get another game to showcase their talent. For India, only two players – speedster Varun Aaron and batsman Cheteshwar Pujara – trained today, which suggests that the two could be given an opportunity on Sunday. Pujara’s inclusion could that that much-needed solidity to the Indian middle order, while Varun Aaron might play as India’s third genuine seamer, given Stuart Binny‘s shabby display against Sri Lanka. Ambati Rayudu may miss out, with Rahane dropping down in the batting order to make way for the dependable Pujara.
It is however India’s bowling that seems to be the major concern for Virat Kohli. Except Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, no other bowler looked like they could cause the batsmen a problem or two. Bhuvneshwar Kumarhas been impressive so far without having the wickets to back up his displays. The speedster, who made an impressive international debut against Pakistan 14 months ago, has improved on his death bowling, and could be the man to watch out for against Pakistan. With the Sher-e Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur promising a bit more for the pace bowlers, Varun Aaron and Mohammed Shami could well fancy their chances on that wicket.
India Pakistan matches rarely disappoint, and given the fact that this match is a virtual semifinal for a final berth against Sri Lanka, expect a cracking encounter when two of cricket’s biggest rivals take to the field at Mirpur on Sunday.
Team Line-ups :