Bitter Battle: India take on arch-rivals Pakistan in key clash today

New York: All roads here will lead to the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on Sunday when upbeat India play an unsettled Pakistan in the marquee match of the T20 World Cup. It’s more than just a game, one that comes loaded with emotion, thanks to the age-old rivalry on and off the field.

India look good on both counts though. Rohit Sharma’s Blues secured a comfortable win against Ireland in their opening Group ‘A’ game while Babar Azam’s Pakistan plunged to a humiliating defeat against cricket lightweights USA. Another slip could put their qualification for the next stage in peril.

India also have the advantage of acclimatising to the conditions, being anchored in this city since the start of the tournament and having played a couple of games here. Pakistan reached New York after their Dallas defeat on Thursday, will take to this ground for the first time and have to deal with a difficult pitch, of which their rivals seem to have a good measure.

History is on India’s side. They have dominated Pakistan at cricket’s biggest stage, winning six of their seven matches in the previous eight editions of the T20 World Cup. Pakistan’s only victory came in the 2021 edition in UAE where openers Mohammed Rizwan and Babar chased down the 152-run target without being separated. That was Pakistan’s first-ever World Cup win against India in any format of cricket.

The last time the two sides met at the T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 82 and his pyrotechnics at the death turned the game around and powered India to a four-wicket victory on the last ball at the gigantic Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2022.

Kohli continues to rule the roost, coming into this tournament as top-scorer at the recent IPL. The 35-year-old is also the all-time leading scorer at T20 World Cups with 1,142 runs in 26 innings at an average of 76.1. Rohit is No. 3 on the list with 1,015 in 37 innings. None from Pakistan is among the Top 10 though.

Kohli also holds the record for most runs in a single T20 World Cup, with 319 from six innings in the 2014 edition in Bangladesh. The charismatic player headed the batting charts in the next tournament (2016 in India) too with 273 in five games apart from being the highest run-getter in the previous chapter played in Australia in 2022 with 296 from six innings. That should stand him in good stead against an unsteady opposition.

Then there are Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja to boost the Blues batting.

On the bowling front, pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj coupled with the spin of Axar Patel and Jadeja could be a handful on that punishing pitch. Given his record against Pakistan, left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav too may get a look in.

Pakistan will once again rely on the batting prowess of openers Babar & Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan while Shaheen Afridi will spearhead the bowling attack in the company of fellow pacers Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

Action, drama and passion are assured as both teams will go for broke in the key clash, winning which would be considered bigger than lifting the World Cup by fans on either side.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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