back icon


Rain threat looms large as India, Pakistan reignite Asia Cup rivalry

Last updated on 01 Sep 2023 | 06:46 PM
Google News IconFollow Us
Rain threat looms large as India, Pakistan reignite Asia Cup rivalry

Rain threat looms large as fans look forward to some high-octane action when India take on Pakistan

The much-awaited India - Pakistan clash is upon us as the Asian rivals take each other on in ODIs after over four years. India are yet to play a game in this Asia Cup, while their northern neighbours are coming off a thumping win against Nepal in the latter’s maiden Asia Cup fixture. 

For India, all eyes will be on KL Rahul (yeah, he’s not playing tomorrow) and Shreyas Iyer, and whether they can continue from where they left it off in this format before their injuries. Also, given all the off-field hype this clash gets, critics will be at their loudest tomorrow. 

After a long time, we are seeing Pakistan enter a global event with a settled lineup. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that they would be one of the teams to beat in the World Cup. India, with their superstar batters, will have their task cut for them while facing the likes of Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, and Shaheen Afridi.

Things to watch out for

Where does Ishan Kishan slot in?

During the pre-tournament press conference, Rahul Dravid - India’s head coach -  announced that KL Rahul won’t be fit in time to be match-ready for the first couple of matches against Pakistan and Nepal. It didn’t take too much time for people to take to social media to talk about the lack of keeper backups in the squad and the decision to opt for Ishan Kishan over Sanju Samson. 

Since he’s the only available keeping option, it’s a no-brainer that Ishan Kishan will don the gloves on 2nd September. But it’s with the bat in hand where questions begin. 

The southpaw has played all his games for India at the top, and for him to play out of position in a high-pressure game like this is a bit absurd. But playing him as an opener would force the think-tank to tinker with the settled Gill-Sharma duo and also make them play Gill out of position at #4. With the World Cup just around the corner, it remains to be seen how India go about trying to plug this gap.

Batting depth or bowling prowess

The recent tours of Ireland and West Indies highlighted India’s lack of depth, and against a bowling attack like Pakistan, India would be better served to strengthen their batting reserves. But that would come at the cost of bowling strength. And the only way for them to be able to do this is to use Shardul Thakur as their third pacer. 

That would then mean that Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj will have to do the bulk of the work with the new ball. Also, this way, they will have to extract 20 overs from Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, and Shardul Thakur. If we go by the late overs carnage we saw in the tournament opener, Iftikhar Ahmed would love to face them in Pallekele.

Shaheen Afridi’s fitness

Shaheen was back to bowling first over jaffas when he got a couple of wickets early on against Nepal. However, Pakistan cricket fans would have their hearts in their mouths when they saw him walk off the field after his new ball spell. While the management was quick to confirm that it was only cramps due to the oppressive Multan heat, Pallekele’s weather won’t be any walk in the park either. 

With the Indian team having repeatedly struggled against left-arm pace upfront - especially in global events - Shaheen staying fit would go a long way in helping Pakistan dictate terms against Indian batters.  

Pitch and Conditions

The surface in Pallekele is a typical Sri Lankan track. It is not the worse of tracks to bat on, but is usually slow. New batters will find it difficult to start attacking from the get-go. The pitch will help the spinners get some turn, and the slow bounce here will trouble the batters.

Although, this has proven to be a pretty high-scoring venue. 287 has been the average first innings score since 2020. However, the encounter between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh a couple of days ago ended up being a fairly low-scoring one. And under lights, the new ball also became fairly tricky to manage. 

Expect the team winning the toss to opt to bowl first. Chasing under lights becomes easier once the ball loses its sheen. Also, strong rains are predicted during tomorrow's game. Should that be the case, the chasing team will also have an advantage when DLS comes into the picture.

What’s interesting about Pallekele is that it’s not offered the spinners a lot of joy: since 2020, among venues in Sri Lanka that have hosted 5+ ODIs, spinners have averaged the highest at Pallekele (36.5). It’s also the only venue where the spinners’ economy has exceeded 5. 

Click here for Asia Cup 2023 schedule

Tactical Nous

After scoring three consecutive ODI centuries in April, the Pakistani opener Fakhar Zaman has run into a lean patch in international cricket. In the seven innings since then, he has crossed the 30-run-mark only twice, with his highest score being just 33. Early on in his innings, hard lengths in particular have been his undoing - over 70% of his dismissals with the new ball have been in the 6m - 8m length. 

Even against Nepal in Multan, he got out trying to drive a length ball from Karan KC. His loss of form notwithstanding, he will want to get some runs under his belt. Babar Azam will be hoping that a high-stakes clash like tomorrow will help him regain some of that lost form. 

Probable XIs

Expect Pakistan to make no changes from their previous game. Nawaz adds a much-needed SLA option in the XI and will be used to get the all-important wicket of Virat Kohli. Agha Salman should also continue to hold on to his spot for the game.

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Agha Salman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf

Ishan Kishan will play as India's keeper in tomorrow's game. The only spot in contention is that of Thakur. As discussed earlier, it'll depend on which way the Indian team leans. If they feel that they need to shore up their bowling, Prasidh could be their pick. And if they want to lengthen their batting lineup, they might go ahead with Thakur. 

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

Click here for Asia Cup 2023 squads

Related Article