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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Eyes fixed on Amir as India take on Pakistan in Asia Cup

Eyes fixed on Amir as India take on Pakistan in Asia Cup

Last updated on: February 26, 2016 14:50 IST

Saturday's match will serve as a precursor to the two teams' opening round battle in the ICC World Twenty20 next month.

Back after serving a five-year ban for spot-fixing, pacer Mohammad Aamir is expected to come out all guns blazing against India's batsmen.

Mohammad Amir

IMAGE: Pakistan's Mohammad Amir celebrates after taking a wicket during the One-Day International against New Zealand, in Wellington, on January 25, 2016. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Cricket's most intriguing rivalry will again be renewed when India take on an unpredictable Pakistan, with rehabilitated pacer Mohammad Aamir being the focus of attention, in a round-robin league encounter of the Asia Cup T20 tournament, in Mirpur, on Saturday.

The match will also serve as a precursor to the two teams' opening round battle in the ICC World Twenty20 next month.

India-Pakistan cricket contests over the years have carried a legacy, not to forget the political undercurrents involved whenever the two bitter neighbours square off on the 22 yards strip.

But the most exciting aspect will be whether the tainted Aamir gets to play in the eleven.

Back after serving a five-year ban for spot-fixing, Aamir is playing for the national team since the tour of New Zealand. This immensely talented bowler will certainly come out all guns blazing against the Indian batsmen.

For Aamir, though, a good performance against India will probably help him gain some credibility not only in the dressing room but also among the common cricket-loving public in Pakistan.

In terms of preparation, both teams have been suitably prepared considering the amount of Twenty20 cricket they have played in the past month.

Team India

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads the Indian team on to the field. Photograph: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

India kicked off their World T20 preparations in style, winning six out of the seven games played so far.

Pakistan's cricketers, on the other hand, are coming straight after playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), which make them well-prepared.

Traditionally, India have never lost to Pakistan in global events, but it is not the case in a continental event where Shahid Afridi and co have performed well.

However, the Asia Cup has never been played in the T20 format, which is also a first.

The two teams met exactly a year and 11 days back in Adelaide during the 50-over World Cup game, which India won by 76 runs.

Post the World Cup, the proposed series on a neutral venue never happened as the Board of Control for Cricket in India did not get approval from the Indian government.

On the field, the Indian team, under Dhoni, is peaking at the right time with all the departments coming together.

The emergence of Hardik Pandya as a batting all-rounder, who can bowl seam-up, has lent the side the requisite balance that Dhoni has long been craving for.

Over the years, one has been a witness to Pakistan teams hitting the zenith and nadir in a space of few matches.

On paper, the Indians are way ahead in each and every department of the game but the beauty of this game is Pakistan's unpredictability.

The only worry is Dhoni's back spasm, even though he played ignoring the pain against Bangladesh in their 45-run victory.

In case Dhoni decides to skip the match, Parthiv Patel is there as cover.

For India, there hasn't been much place for experiment with the playing eleven. Rohit Sharma has emerged as the next big match-winner after Virat Kohli in the shorter formats. Shikhar Dhawan can be inconsistent, but, on his day, can murder any bowling attack.

India and Pakistan

IMAGE: The India and Pakistan teams after the 2015 Cricket World Cup game. Photograph: Getty Images

For Pakistan, their opening pair is likely to be Mohammed Hafeez and Sharjeel Khan, who just had a good PSL, scoring 299 runs for his franchise.

However, compared to the Dhawan-Rohit pairing, the duo of Sharjeel-Hafeez don't have the same pedigree.

There is no denying Umar Akmal's talent, but the temperamental right-hander, who used to be once considered on par with Kohli, has fallen way behind in the race. However, his 355 runs for Lahore Qalanders in the PSL will give him confidence.

Coming to the captains, Dhoni's dependability is any day more than his counterpart, Shahid Afridi, who has time and again shown ‘natural ability’ to commit hara-kiri at crucial junctures.

In the middle-order Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina are also bigger match-winners than Shoaib Malik and Khurram Manzoor. 

Yuvraj, however, needs a significant innings which will certainly bolster his confidence.

In the spin bowling department, the absence of leg-spinner Yasir Shah will be a problem for Pakistan. Afridi will bowl his fast leg-breaks but the Indians have played him well in the past without much difficulty.

Ravichandran Ashwin is one bowler that the Pakistanis did not negotiate well in the past. With the accurate Ravindra Jadeja for company, the duo form a better pair than Afridi's combination with left-arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz, fresh from his 13 wickets in the Pakistan Super League.

The only department that Pakistan are on even keel with India is pace bowling. There is not much to choose between Aamir/Wahab Riaz and Ashish Nehra.

All of them can swing the ball, have lovely variations, with Wahab and Aamir being slightly quicker than the nearly 36-year-old Nehra.

Squads:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harbhajan Singh

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Mohammed Hafeez, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammed Nawaz, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammed Aamir, Mohamed Irfan, Mohammed Sami, Wahab Riaz, Anar Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imaad Wasim, Mohammed Amir.

Match starts at 7pm (IST)