Daijiworld Media Network
Dhaka, Mar 2: The stage is all set for cricket's blue ribbon rivalry as India square off against Pakistan in what is touted to be a virtual semi-final. There is an air of euphoria. Sparks are set to fly. It is a high stakes duel, for the team that falters today might well have to rely upon permutations, combinations and miracles to advance to the final. Greetings and welcome to the 6th game of the Asia Cup pitting India against Pakistan.
Arguably, Pakistan's bowling is head and shoulder's above that of India's. However, Pakistan's batting has two distinct personalities. Well it's going to be India's batting vs Pakistan's bowling. Who will come up trumps?
Hop on the rollercoaster ride as we take you through the journey. India's Dhoni-less, callow middle order has given Virat Kohli some food for thought. Having said that, India's stand-in-skipper himself has been in inexnorable form. The last time these two sides squared off, Kohli cracked a whirlwind 183. Incidentally, it was Sachin's final ODI game. India's death bowling has improved marginally with Bhuvi dishing out those accurate yorkers.
Pakistan have won the toss and have opted to field.
Kohli: 'We would have loved to bowl first as well, but now we've got to put the runs on the board. We've seen that the Pakistani batting line-up has not been doing well in chases of late. We've got one change, Amit Mishra is playing in place of Stuart Binny. The other day I got the feel that the pacers were not able to control things and that's why we are going in with the extra-spinner today.'
Misbah: 'We are bowling. The pitch looks like it's a bit on the slower side but keeping in mind the dew factor, you don't know what target to set and that's why we are bowling first. Everybody plays this game just to become a hero. India-Pakistan is always a great contest. We have made one change to our side, Anwar Ali is not playing and Mohammad Talha is in.'
Pakistan (Playing XI): Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah-ul-Haq(c), Umar Akmal(w), Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Mohammad Talha, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan
India (Playing XI): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik(w), Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami
Both these teams, having come up short against Sri Lanka will fight tooth and nail to inch closer to the knock out round. The debutant Mohammad Talha, who has created quite a buzz with his searing pace lends more firepower to the bowling department.
Pitch Report: 'The clay here is darker than the previous ground. The wicket is well-rolled and looks hard as well as flat. There is a bit of grass but not enough to trouble the batsmen. The spinners will find this track more useful than the pacers. We still don't know whether the dew will be a factor here so the captain winning the toss will like to field first', reckons Arun Lal.
So this is the mother of all clashes. India and Pakistan will take on each other for the first time since they clashed in the Champions Trophy in June last year. India had got the better arch-rivals then, thanks to some clinical display by a side that looked far better but it is a different tale now. MS Dhoni is not playing the Asia Cup due to injury while another ODI regular, Suresh Raina, has been dropped. Rohit Sharma is not in top form and the seamers, who exploited the conditions in England, are looking increasingly fragile.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have had their own problems of consistency. A dramatic collapse against Afghanistan, before Umar Akmal's resurrection job, has left a lot to be desired from their batsmen. India would have noticed the vulnerability in the Pakistani ranks and will be sure to exploit some of that come Sunday.
The action moves to Dhaka, a venue both teams are more familiar with. Two years back, when India and Pakistan faced off here, during the Asia Cup, a Virat Kohli sizzler had sealed the deal for the world champions, while it also turned out to be Sachin Tendulkar's last game. Now, Kohli is held with the same awe as Tendulkar was in the 1990's and has been entrusted with the task of leading the team in Dhoni's absence.
After a successful 2013, India started touring overseas and were once again badly exposed in South Africa and New Zealand. A rusty bowling performance against Bangladesh was countered by Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane before the batting imploded and the bowling showed some fight in a two-wicket loss against Sri Lanka. But despite that loss, Kohli impressed with his proactive attitude and aggression.
India were defending an average 264 but Kohli backed his spinners to keep a tight leash on Sri Lanka in the middle overs and used his seamers wisely. Not for a moment, did the young captain allow his side to drop their intensity and that quality will be handy in what is bound to be an adrenaline-packed tie against Pakistan.
Like India, Misbah-ul-Haq's men also lost to Sri Lanka but go into the Sunday game with a win under their belt. However, Pakistan have a bonus point in their kitty and thus sit cushioned at second in the table, between Sri Lanka at top and India right below.
Whoever wins on Sunday, would be virtually assured of a spot in the final, for Pakistan will have Bangladesh to play after while India play Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Pakistan have a far better pace attack with Junaid Khan and Umar Gul easily trumping the pair of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami, while their spinners, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi are more skilful than R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. However, Kohli has taken heart from Jadeja's heroics against Sri Lanka, where he sent down 10 frugal overs to return with 3/30.
Can India's batsmen tame the Pakistani attack on a usually flat Dhaka pitch? Will Pakistan's batsmen hold their nerves and give India a run for their money? Time will tell but Kohli, the enforcer will leave nothing to chance.
Like it has been so often in the past, the match will be a contest between India's batsmen and Pakistan's bowlers. Both captains are the most consistent batsmen in either team and their roles on the day will be crucial as well.
- 5-4: India's win-loss record against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Since 2000, India have won 3 and lost 3 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup and have been victorious against their arch-rivals in their last two encounters.
- 1: Virat Kohli needs one more hundred to go past Brian Lara and occupy the 7th place jointly with Saeed Anwar for players with most tons in ODIs. The ton would also help Kohli become only the 3rd Indian and the 8th in the world with 20 or more hundreds.
We could have been smarter with our batting and could have added 25-30 runs more (against Sri Lanka). We have to play some smart cricket against Pakistan - Virat Kohli, India captain
As a batting unit, I think if we continue to repeat the same mistakes, it will be a big problem for us. We have a very important match against India coming up now, so we have to avoid making these kinds of mistakes - Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan captain