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India vs Pakistan: The FIVE Big Battles

October 22, 2021 10:16 IST
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IMAGE: India and Pakistan fans during the ICC World Cup 2019 game at Old Trafford in Manchester, June 16, 2019. Photographs: Getty Images

India will look to maintain their unbeaten World Cup record against Pakistan when the teams clash in the T20 World Cup Super 12s game in Dubai on Sunday.

Pakistan have never beaten India in five T20 World Cup matches. This time too, India starts as favourites as their team boasts of a formidable unit, with most of their players having done well in the IPL, which was also held in the UAE -- the same venue as the ongoing tournament.

India have an array of match-winners in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami among others.

Pakistan can never be taken lightly, and with the likes of Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Shaheen Shah Afridi can be handful on their day.

Harish Kotian looks at five key battles in Sunday's clash.

1. Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Shah Afridi

Pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi will be the key to Pakistan's hopes with the new ball. However, he faces a huge challenge bowling against Rohit Sharma, arguably one of the greatest batters in the history of limited-overs cricket.

Pakistan are aware that Rohit is the man for the big occasion and getting him out early will be a big blow to India's hopes of a good start.

Early in his innings, Rohit has a slight problem against left-arm pacers who bring the ball in. Hence, Afridi's role with the new ball will be crucial for Pakistan.

If Rohit survives the early overs, he will take some stopping!

2. Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan

Another big battle which could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the big India versus Pakistan match will be between Virat Kohli and leg-spinner Shadab Khan.

It is no secret that Kohli has a slight weakness against leg-spinners and has been deceived by the googly quite a few times.

But trust Kohli to come up with the goods against Pakistan against whom he has always done well in limited overs’ cricket.

In six T20s against Pakistan, India's captain has hit 254 runs, at an average of 84, while Shadab boasts of a good record in T20 Internationals, with 58 wickets in 53 games.

3. Jasprit Bumrah vs Babar Azam

Just like Kohli, Babar Azam has also led from the front with the bat for Pakistan.

Azam, who opens or bats at No 3, hit a half-century against the West Indies in the practice match but was dismissed for 15 by Kagiso Rabada in the practice game against South Africa.

India could target him using strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah as getting Azam early would set panic in the Pakistan camp.

Bumrah will also be keen to make up for his lacklustre showing against Pakistan in big tournaments. He went wicketless in the two ICC Champions Trophy matches including the final in 2017 and met the same fate in the 2019 ODI World Cup. He took 1/32 in four overs in the 2016 T20 World Cup match against Pakistan.

Azam boasts of a good record in T20 Internationals with 2,204 runs at a strike rate of 130, while Bumrah has been one of India's leading bowlers in limited-overs cricket in the last few years. He boasts of an impressive economy rate of 6.66 in 50 T20 Internationals, while picking up 59 wickets.

4. Shoaib Malik-Mohammed Hafeez vs Ravindra Jadeja-Varun Chakravarthy

Pakistan will rely on the experienced duo of Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Hafeez to tame the Indian spinners in the middle overs.

India are likely go in with Ravindra Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy, both of whom did well in the IPL, but veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin could also come into the picture because of his experience.

Malik always reserves his best for India while Hafeez is Pakistan's crisis man. The veteran batters are not only very good players of spin, but have vast experience of T20 cricket having played in various leagues across the world.

Jadeja is a difficult bowler to get away, no matter what he stage he bowls at, while Chakravarthy proved in the IPL recently that he is one of the best spinners going around in T20 cricket.

Malik and Hafeez have featured in five T20 World Cups and their experience will be vital for Pakistan in the high-profile game against India.

Chakravarthy took 18 wickets in the IPL, at an impressive economy rate of 6.5, while Jadeja bagged 13 wickets at seven per over.

5. Mohammed Shami vs Fakhar Zaman-Mohammed Rizwan

Mohammed Shami was in good form in the IPL and he continued the momentum with three wickets against England in the practice match.

India will look to Shami to make the new ball count and strike with the early wicket of the dangerous Mohammed Rizwan, the leading scorer in T20Is this year with 752 runs, at an average of 74 and a strike rate of 140.

Fakhar Zaman struck form in the warm-up match against South Africa, smashing a quickfire 52 from 28 balls.

Shami took a wicket in every match he played in the IPL's UAE leg, to claim 11 wickets in six games at an economy of around 7.5 per over and also bagged 3/40 in the first practice match against England.

If Shami can pick a wicket or two in his first spell, it would make things easier for the spinners in the middle overs.

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