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Monday, May 23, 2022

Asia Cup 2014: No scope for another tumble

India face traditional rivals Pakistan in a high-profile Asia Cup match, one neither team can afford to lose.

Dhaka |
Updated: March 2, 2014 2:25:13 pm
Virat Kohli & Co. slipped up in the last match against Sri Lanka. Pakistan also lost to the same opposition in their opening-round game (AP) Virat Kohli & Co. slipped up in the last match against Sri Lanka. Pakistan also lost to the same opposition in their opening-round game (AP)

Ahead of their Asia Cup match at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium here on Sunday, Pakistan and India prepared differently.

Pakistan had a full training session where the frontline bowlers bowled to all top batters. The Indian players opted to rest as they opted for rest after their last night’s game.

Only Cheteshwar Pujara and Varun Aaron came out for practice but trained in different nets. Aaron bowled to a dummy batsman while bowling coach Joe Dawes monitored the length closely and offered advice. Pujara was practising pull shots, ramp and lap shots against the net bowlers.

Despite the low-key practice session, an India vs Pakistan game is a rare occasion. The last time they played a bilateral series was in India in 2012-13, a three-match affair that Pakistan won 2-1. Last time they played against each other was in the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston last year, and India had won at a canter, bowling out their arch-rivals for 165 in 39.4 years. Pakistan also lost to India in the Asia Cup two years ago despite scoring 329 batting first. Virat Kohli’s sublime 183, after Sachin Tendulkar’s 48-ball 52, had clinched the deal for his team. Things have changed since and fresh faces have arrived in both camps, but when it comes to the ICC or ACC events, India have enjoyed an upper hand.

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India, however, are going into this game on the heels of a poor run. They’ve won only once in their last seven ODIs and that too against Bangladesh. Pakistan, on the other hand, have recently won a bilateral series against Sri Lanka in the UAE and bagged a bonus point victory against Afghanistan two days ago.

Tomorrow will be a do-or-die affair for both the teams. Still, Pakistan team’s chief cricket consultant Zaheer Abbas claimed that the players are under no extra pressure. “The players want to play their game. The pressure comes from the fans. Media adds to that. We always play to win,” he said.

If Virat Kohli is the biggest positive for India, then the seamers and a weak middle-order are real problems. The stand-in India captain indirectly admitted the side’s batting fragility after the loss against Sri Lanka, saying they wanted to “strengthen” their batting.

Best bowling attack

Pakistan have the best bowling attack in the tournament with Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Anwar Ali in charge of the seam attack and Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi taking care of spin. Even Mohammad Hafeez made a big impact in the last match against Afghanistan with three wickets after Ajmal kept things tight at one end. Together the Pakistan spinners have bagged nine wickets in the first two matches, while India’s Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have taken six. But yesterday, against Sri Lanka, both bowled well and once again a lot will depend on how they do in their combined 20 overs.

At what expense

That the Indian seamers don’t inspire confidence is an old story. Mohammed Shami takes wickets, seven scalps in the first two matches, but he leaks runs freely. Last night, in a relatively low-scoring game, he went for 81 in his 10 overs and it eventually decided the outcome. India don’t have a fast bowler like Gul, who can take wickets upfront and keep the batters in check at death. But Junaid’s wicket-less stint is a worry for Pakistan.

As far as batting is concerned, India’s hopes rest on Kohli, though Dhawan showed signs of returning to limited-overs form with a 114-ball 94 against Sri Lanka. Rohit Sharma has struggled and Ambati Rayudu is yet to prove himself. In a positive sense, the match against Pakistan gives the young middle-order the opportunity to make a bold statement.

Pakistan’s batting, too, looks jittery and only Umar Akmal is in form with a 74 in the first match and a century in the second. Misbah-ul-Haq has been strangely subdued but Hafeez is yet to get into the groove and the openers, Ahmed Shehzad and Sharjeel Khan haven’t hit the ground running yet. To help his batters return to form, Abbas had a simple advice: “Don’t hit lofted shots and play along the ground.”

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