With the bilateral series in December not taking place due to political tensions, India-Pakistan tie in the Asia Cup in Dhaka takes added relevance. More so that it works as an appetiser before the big one in World T20 at Dharamshala. Fittingly, Anurag Thakur, who is BCCI general secretary and president of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, said, “Thodi si thandi jagah honi chahiye jaha pe itna garam match ho” in reference to the allocation. Not that this heated encounter will draw less eyeballs in Dhaka.
It is tough to figure the emotion from both camps for this tournament as response from both camps was democratic and calm. While Virat Kohli stated: “There is a lot of hype, which is exciting for the people. But on the field it’s the same as playing any other team”, Shoaib Malik was equally tranquil while admitting what the match means to crores in both countries, “People from both countries enjoy this encounter and they want their team to win. The cricketers are the same, they give their best and enjoy the contest a lot.” Even Shahid Afridi chose to focus on Asia Cup and World T20 than talk about his retirement plans.
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Dhoni still a concern
MS Dhoni complained of back spasm before the tournament began and Parthiv Patel was called in as back up. In the first game, there were murmurs that Dhoni won’t take the field but that was quashed. On Friday, he took time off from training to possibly recover and rest before the ‘big one’. His fitness is definitely a concern at the moment but it looks unlikely that he would sit out from this crucial game.
In terms of the team structure, India are likely to stick to the same side that beat Bangladesh in the opener. But just this time, the hopes would be for the top order to deliver as well.
Wahab the spearhead
Afridi acknowledge that it would be a match of India’s batsman against Pakistan’s bowlers and he couldn’t be further from the truth. Having honed their skills under the watchful eyes of Waqar Younis and Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan’s pace attack is their strength going into the match with Wahab Riaz as the pick of the lot. He showed his sting and capabilities in hurting Indian batting during the 2011 World Cup when he picked up five wickets. Giving him good company will be Mohammad Amir who is returning after serving a five-year ban.
Not to be forgotten, Shahid Afridi is nifty with the ball too as his 91 scalps in the shortest format of the game – most by a bowler – indicate.