Fierce, lethal, intimidating, unremitting, intense – these are a few adjectives that aptly describe the atmosphere in an India – Pakistan cricket match. Every time India takes on Pakistan, stadiums transform into Colosseums as fans erupt in cacophonous uproars and players transcend to gladiatorial heights of cricketing frenzy.
Now in its fifth edition, the ICC World Twenty20 2014 is expected to smash all records of television viewership with the forthcoming group 2 match between India and Pakistan. Given their impeccable record against Pakistan in previous Twenty20 world cup encounters – a 100% win record in the three matches played between 2007-2012 – India hold slight edge in Friday’s game at Dhaka. However, fans and connoisseurs of Indian cricket would be wary of the team’s wobbly form and recent last-over loss against their rivals in the nail-biting Asia Cup match. On the other hand, Pakistan would be waiting with baited breath to register their first Twenty20 World Cup victory against India.
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All eyes will be set on the performances of India’s batting behemoths – Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni – who have often waded their team out of calamitous situations in recent times. Besides them, India would also look to bank on the all-round services of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Although their collective performances have been fairly inconsistent in recent history, Dhoni would look to attack Pakistan on the their weakest area – batting – with the spin twins.
Much has been said about the rise of Virat Kohli as the world’s most exciting young batsman. His exemplary consistency and aggressive temperament is best suited for the shortest format of the game. Kohli’s batting oozes class and suaveness. His recent innings of 74 not-out in Wednesday’s practice match against England highlighted his clinical ability to score runs at a brisk pace without entering the archetypal slam-bang mode that this format is reckoned for. With an impressive strike-rate of 130.44, K0hli is expected to bludgeon and pillage bowling attacks in the ongoing world cup. Pakistani pacers and spinners need to rethink their strategies if they expect to curb Kohli’s run-scoring in Friday’s game.
R. Ashwin seems to have found his length in familiar territory. After struggling during India’s overseas tours, the offie exhibited encouraging performances in the Asia Cup, and the two warm-up fixtures. His bowling repertoire, which includes a lot of variety, can be a big asset for India in their campaign. Furthermore, he can chip in with the bat too. With some extra inches, the right-hander can negate the Pakistan speedsters.
Pakistan’s search for a batting all-rounder ended with Hafeez’s successful transformation into a genuine off-break bowler. His ingenious ability to bowl in tight areas with the new ball has often troubled batsmen in the shorter formats of the game. Not to forget, the 33-year-old can score at a brisk pace at the top of the order.
India is one team which brings the best out of this all-rounder. Renowned for his herculean hitting and aggressive temperament, Shahid Afridi is a valuable asset for Pakistan, especially in this format. The way he turned matches, with the bat, in the Asia Cup spoke volumes about his batting credentials – something which is not talked about that often. The T20 format is tailor-made for somebody like Afridi who prefers striking the ball clean instead of staying at the crease and rotating the strike. He hits at least one four everytime he takes the crease.