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By Shrikant Shankar
Mar 1, 2014
India take on Pakistan in a highly anticipated clash in the Asia Cup 2014 at Mirpur on March 2. This will be the sixth match of the Asia Cup. India and Pakistan have played two matches each. They have also won one and lost one so far.
Pakistan are second in the standings ahead of India on net run-rate. Sri Lanka lead the standings after beating both Pakistan and India. Pakistan beat Afghanistan in their second match. India had defeated Bangladesh in their first match.
All the first five matches were scheduled to be played at Fatullah. Now the action shifts to the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. The last time India played Pakistan in the Asia Cup, they beat them by six wickets. India chased down a 330-run target in less than 48 overs thanks to Virat Kohli’s magnificent 183 off 148 deliveries. That was also Sachin Tendulkar’s final One-Day International (ODI)
History will have no bearing though as the arch-rivals will play against each other after last meeting in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. India were professional in their victory over Bangladesh on February 26. They chased down a 280-run target in 49 overs. Captain Kohli top-scored with 136 runs.
But in their second match, India came up short against a superior opposition in Sri Lanka. First they were restricted to 264 for nine and then they dropped a series of catches and missed stumping opportunities to lose by only two wickets.
India were sent into bat by Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews. Defending a total is something which India are not happy doing. So, for Kohli, if he wins the toss, bowling first would be the likely option. But even if India are ought to bat first, there is no denying that the batsmen have to score runs.
Shikhar Dhawan looked in good form against Sri Lanka with a well-made 94 off 114 deliveries. Rohit Sharma was dismissed early and he will be looking to get a good score against Pakistan. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane should come in at No 3 and No 4. Ambati Rayudu failed to impress against Sri Lanka. So, Cheteshwar Pujara might get a look-in.
Dinesh Karthik disappointed with both bat and gloves. He played a rash shot to get out early and missed a glorious opportunity to stump Kumar Sangakkara, when the left-handed batsman had not even crossed 30 runs. He went onto score 103 and help Sri Lanka win. But Karthik is sure to get a longer rope, being the only recognised wicketkeeper in the Indian squad.
Ravindra Jadeja was India’s star with the ball, picking up three wickets against Sri Lanka. Stuart Binny seemed nervous in his second ODI, but he should play against Pakistan. Ravichandran Ashwin bowled with two different actions, but got success with his old one.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was not expensive, but could not pick up wickets. Mohammed Shami picked up wickets, but was very expensive. It is hard to see either Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey get a game against Pakistan. They might play against Afghanistan on March 5. Amit Mishra is an option in the spin department, but it is hard to see the combination of Jadeja and Ashwin being changed.
For Pakistan, they should name an unchanged line-up from the side that beat Afghanistan by 72 runs. Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad should ideally open the batting for Pakistan. On flat tracks found in the sub-continent Mohammad Hafeez is a very good batsman. His off-spin also helps him keep his place in the side.
Shoaib Maqsood has had a poor run so far, but he might get another opportunity against India. Then comes captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who is their best batsman. He might have got out for a duck against Afghanistan, but he always scores runs, even if Pakistan lose matches.
Their star performer so far has been Umar Akmal. He scored 74 against Sri Lanka and then an unbeaten 102 against Afghanistan. He is also their wicketkeeper. The bowling is quite strong with Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal leading the spin attack.
Junaid Khan and Umar Gul are highly talented bowlers and can cause Indian batsmen a lot of problems. Junaid is a genuine fast bowler and Gul can surprise the batsmen with some extra bounce. The third seamers’ slot will either fall to Anwar Ali or Bilawal Bhatti. Both are right-handed medium-fast bowlers. But both could also be their weak-links.
All in all, irrespective of the quality of the game, an India versus Pakistan match always generates a lot of attention. The conditions at the stadium will be like any other in Bangladesh. The wickets will be flat and slow and dew will play a big factor. It should be a fascinating and titanic clash between two giants and rivals.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Mohammad Talha.
Time: 8:00 GMT I 13:30 IST
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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