The two giants of Asia attract the largest number of eyeballs whenever they clash in an ICC tournament
Arguably the highest-octane rivalries in the world of cricket is Pakistan vs India. These encounters are always highly anticipated, engaging billions of people around the world, more so since the two nations only play against each other in big tournaments especially in the ICC events and when it comes down to the World Cup, it becomes more intense.
One of the most exciting and much awaited ICC World Cup matches, between sub-continent arch-rivals Pakistan and India, is to be played in Ahmedabad on October 14.
This will be the third time since 2021 that India and Pakistan will face each other in an ICC tournament in the month of October. While the contest between the two nations in the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup (Dubai, UAE) resulted in Pakistan thrashing India by 10 wickets, the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup saw India overcome Pakistan by four wickets in a nail-biting encounter at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia.
How the people are taking this match can be judged from the fact that all tickets of the world’s largest stadium were sold out within a few hours.
The expectations of the people put extra pressure on both sides. It is a battle of nerves as much as it is of talent and experience.
For the players, participating in a Pakistan vs India World Cup match is an experience like none other. The pressure, expectations, and the weight of history create an atmosphere that tests the mettle of even the most seasoned cricketers. The players become heroes or villains based on their performances in these high-stakes contests.
Pakistan’s best performance came in 1992 when they lifted the trophy at the MCG after defeating England. Pakistan played the 1999 final and reached semi-finals in 1979, 1983, 1987, and 2011.
In 50-overs World Cups, India and Pakistan have met seven times and India have won every time.
Although both nations have been partaking in the Cricket World Cup since its inception in 1975, they first met in a world cup game at Sydney on March 4, 1992.India won by 43 runs. At Bangalore on March 9, 1996, by 39 runs; at Old Trafford on June 8, 1999, by 47 runs; at Centurion on March 1, 2003, by six wickets; at Mohali on March 30, 2011, by 29 runs, at Adelaide by 76 runs on February 15, 2015 and on June 16, 2019 at Old Trafford by 89 runs.
The Indian success over Pakistan in the past world cups was due to better captaincy, handling pressure in tricky situations, fielding and confidence.
But history is past and one really can’t depend on it. Pakistan beat India in the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017 in England. The Champions Trophy is the most prestigious ODI tournament after the World Cup. Pakistan can only win if they play as they did in the Champions Trophy final.
Currently India is the number two team in ODI with 116 points while Pakistan is just behind with 115 points in the ICC ODI team ranking.
At home, India are very strong but on field they will be under tremendous pressure to keep their unbeaten record against Pakistan intact, especially in front of a home crowd.
The current Indian team is very experienced and the core group has been playing cricket for a long time now. Pakistan on the other hand has some young and exciting players who have just burst on to the international stage and when young players come in they don’t know what pressure is.
India were always considered better in batting and Pakistan in bowling, but now India have a very balanced bowling attack consisting of fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Muhammad Siraj, Mohammad Shami, Shardul Thakur and quality spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav.
Allrounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja could also play a vital role in India’s success.
On the other hand, Pakistan batting in recent years has improved a lot, with Fakhar Zaman, Imamul Haq, Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed having done well against India in the past.
Openers’ performance will play a vital role in Pakistan’s success against India in front of over 130,000 people in Ahmedabad. If the top order provides a solid foundation with a good run rate, the middle order is capable of posting a decent total on the board or chasing the target.
On the bowling side, Pakistan have services of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Harif Rauf, Hassan Ali, Shadab Khan etc. but the green shirts will miss the services of young sensational fast bowler Naseem Shah who has been ruled out of the World Cup due to an injury.
Pace attack looks good and experienced, but for the middle overs spinners will have to improve their performance.
Pakistan bowling is considered the best fast bowling attack in the world and they can bowl out any team if they have the runs on the board. But in two warm-up matches, Pakistan bowling was badly exposed. In both matches against New Zealand and Australia, bowlers conceded around 350 runs and even against Kiwis, they failed to defend 346 and New Zealand chased the target in just 35 overs.
Losing both warm-up games should not be a concern for Pakistan, but the issue is the bowlers’ poor performance. Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan’s performance is worrying for Pakistan. Haris took only one wicket after conceding 133 runs in two matches while Shadab in a single game against Australia got one wicket after 69 runs.
Experts were surprised over the inclusion of Muhammad Wasim and Salman Agha in the team. Their performance has not been upto the requirement neither in batting nor in bowling.
An encouraging aspect of Pakistan bowling is leg-spinner Usama Mir’s performance that was quite satisfactory in two warm-up matches. He took four wickets for 99 runs.
The Indian conditions will also favour Pakistan and if the players give their 100 percent, all the ingredients are there for Pakistan to be among the favourites to claim a second World Cup title this year.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam is confident that they can beat India. Green shirts will have to be positive and aggressive.
Pakistani players and fans are desperate to avenge all their World Cup defeats and Pakistan can do so if batsmen and the fielders provide full support to the bowlers.
Without any doubt on paper, no other team can match India, especially on its home ground. It will be difficult for Pakistan or any other team to down India because India also have good spinners. Not only the spinners such as Ashwin, Kuldeep and Jadeja but also they have a strong bench.
Team India proved its strength in the Asia Cup and the ODI home series against Australia.