Here we are! India and Pakistan resume their time-honoured rivalry when they take the field in the first T20I at the Chinnaswami Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday. Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI retirement has taken some sheen off the build-up to this match but a good match can move us on from the sad news that grabbed the headlines Sunday.
As to the match, it’s very difficult to say who is the favourites. India had a horrible time against England in Tests and in the following two-T20 series, they were none the better, though they managed to win the opening match.
India’s bowling is a major worry. Against England, it looked out of sorts with medium pacers Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana leaking runs plentifully. R Ashwin, the most experienced bowler in India’s set-up right now, too was found wanting and if it wasn’t for Yuvraj Singh who bowled brilliantly in both matches, things could have been even worse. MS Dhoni too admitted to bowling weaknesses following the defeat in the second game.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have a world-class bowling unit. Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi are too hot to handle, especially in this bonsai format of cricket. And then there are the likes of Mohd Hafeez, the captain, and Shoaib Malik to assist them. In the batting department, they are no less impressive thanks to presence of some really big-hitters. Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad are live bombs waiting to explode.
Clearly, India have a lot to deal with right now. Their batting too is not convincing. Against England, none of the Indian batsmen got a fifty. Yuvraj batted well in the first game, while Dhoni and Raina got a few in the second, but on the whole they were quite below par. If they couldn’t do fine against an inexperienced English side, then it could be murder against Pakistan.
India are likely to make a couple of changes in the side that played last week. To bring in some inexperience in fast bowling department, they are certain to go in with Ishant Sharma. UP allrounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar might also get a game in place of either Awana or Dinda. However, it’s Awana who is likely to get the boot following an embarrassing performance both in bowling and fielding against England. Also, Ravindra Jadeja may get back his place in the eleven at the expense of legspinner Piyush Chawla as Jadeja brings batting capabilities into the bargain. Pakistan on the other hand may debut Umar Amin, who has already played Tests and ODIs.
India haven’t played Pakistan much following the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 with their last international game coming in the World T20 earlier this year. Also, Pakistan’s last match in India was the 2011 World Cup semifinal in March which they lost. With the political leadership on both sides extending goodwill through this series, it all makes for a great setting.
India: 1 Ajinkya Rahane 2 Gautam Gambhir 3 Virat Kohli 4 Yuvraj Singh 5 Rohit Sharma 6 Suresh Raina 7 MS Dhoni (c&wk) 8 Ravichandran Aswin 9 Ravindra Jadeja 10 Ishant Sharma 11 Ashok Dinda
Pakistan: 1 Mohd Hafeez (c) 2 Ahmed Shehjad 3 Nasir Jamshed 4 Umar Akmal 5 Kamran Akmal (wk) 6 Umar Amin 7 Shoaib Malik 8 Shahid Afridi 9 Umar Gul 10 Sohail Tanvir 11 Saeed Ajmal