ICC Champions Trophy 2013: India vs Pakistan – Key Battles

India and Pakistan will be looking to get one over the other in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 © PTI

India take on Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 on June 15, 2013. Though the match may not decide the fortunes of either teams in the tournament, it still is an India-Pakistan game. Shrikant Shankar looks at the key battles within and how it could decide the outcome of the match.

India have already qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 and Pakistan have been knocked out. Their match at Edgbaston might have had more significance had both teams’ destinies still been in the balance. But it does not take the shine away from an India-Pakistan game.

The crowds in England for the Champions Trophy have not been in great numbers for all teams, but this clash will garner a lot of interest. One can be rest assured that fans of both teams will be there in plenty along with the neutrals as they get to witness a match of this magnitude live rather than on a television set. Let’s take a look at the key battles between players of both sides and how it might all pan out.

Shikhar Dhawan vs Mohammad Irfan

Shikhar Dhawan has been in scintillating form in the tournament. He has struck back-to-back centuries against quality opposition. It is almost like he has that class and style associated with left-handed batsmen. He possesses an array of strokes through the off-side on the front-foot and off the back. His square cuts against both South Africa and the West Indies were impressive. If there is a weakness, then it is playing on the back-foot through the on-side. He was dropped on 41 by Kemar Roach, while attempting to pull completely off-balance. Even against the Proteas, he looked unconvincing against the chin music.

This is where Mohammad Irfan will come in handy. Being 7’1″ tall, Irfan can generate steep bounce from good length and back-of-a-length deliveries. And this is where he can test Dhawan. With an average of 25.20 in ODIs and an economy rate of 4.82 runs-an-over, he is not easy to negotiate. History is beckoning for Dhawan as he could become the first Indian to score three consecutive centuries in ODIs.

Rohit Sharma vs Wahab Riaz

Rohit Sharma has justified his selection ahead of Murali Vijay with scores of 65 and 52. And yet, it seems like there is still a lot to offer from the Mumbai batsman. That is the kind of talent one is talking about. Many say opening is the best place to bat in ODIs, and it probably is bringing the best out of Rohit.

On the other hand, another left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz looks every bit an international bowler. His figures may not be of great reading, but on his day he can rattle the best of batting line-ups. His spell of five for 46 against India in the 2011 ICC World Cup semi-final was nothing short of sheer quality. He will test the Indian batsmen and the victor could be decided by the mini-battle between Rohit and Wahab.

Virat Kohli vs Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan

Virat Kohli has not had many great outings against Pakistan. His second-highest score against them is 18 in a total of seven innings. Not many will give a second look to it as his highest score is 183. He is definitely India’s best batsman, but he needs to score a big one sooner rather than later.

In those seven innings, Saeed Ajmal has taken Kohli’s wicket only once. But the battle between the duo should be intense. Kohli is a good player of spin and Ajmal is as good a spinner as they come. But a key battle might arise between Kohli and Junaid Khan, who is another of Pakistan’s left-arm quicks and has a very impressive record against Kohli. Junaid has dismissed Kohli three times in his career.

Ishant Sharma vs Nasir Jamshed

Ishant Sharma has had an above average Champions Trophy so far. He bowled well against the West Indies, barring one over where Darren Sammy took him to the cleaners. He did, however, get a pasting against South Africa.

He will be up against Nasir Jamshed. The left-handed batsman has a very impressive record against India, scoring three ODI centuries. He has also had a good Champions Trophy personally. His scores of 50 and 42, though, have come at Test-match pace and in losing causes. Ishant does have a natural delivery that goes away from the left-hander, so, this should be a keen contest between two players wanting to prove their worth.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Imran Farhat

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been impressive for India ever since he made his debut. His economy rate is 4.44 runs-an-over, but he has not taken many wickets so far. In 10 matches, he has only taken 12 wickets. For a front-line bowler, he should be taking more, especially since he can swing the ball both ways.

Imran Farhat is another stylish left-hander who can play classic shots, but he has been in poor form. He has single digit scores in his last four ODI innings. If Kumar can get early swing and move the ball away from the southpaw, then Farhat may be in for a rough time. How Farhat deals with Kumar early on could be crucial for both team’s eventual fortunes.

Ravindra Jadeja vs Shoaib Malik

It would have seemed impossible to envision Ravindra Jadeja actually replacing Yuvraj Singh in the Indian team after the 2011 World Cup, but it has happened. He seems to be in the form of his life. He has always been a very good fielder and now he has added consistency to his bowling. His batting still needs to be worked on, but in shorter formats his brisk 20s and 30s could be very telling. His five-wicket haul against West Indies proved that he can now be a regular bowler and be more than just a partnership breaker. He will need to bowl 10 overs on a regular basis.

And if he does bowl 10 overs, he is sure to face Shoaib Malik. Say what you want of him, his record against India is pretty good. He does play spinners quite well and he may need to fend off Jadeja to provide stability to the Pakistan innings.

MS Dhoni vs Misbah-ul-Haq

This list will not be complete without mentioning captain cool or should it be captains cool. MS Dhoni has always been calm, whether under pressure or not. His leadership will be key in this very important clash. As it is a dead rubber, Dhoni should try new strategies and experiment, with an eye on the latter stages of the tournament. Tweaks in batting line-ups or bowling combinations, if they need testing, could be tested now. His record both as batsman and captain against Pakistan is good. He will hope that continues.

Misbah-ul-Haq has also been quite calm under pressure. He has been in fantastic run-scoring form over the last 12 months. But there have been question marks over his strike-rate and his decisions to accelerate mind-bogglingly late during his innings. But too much criticism is not a good thing as he seems to be the only batsman in any kind of form in the team. It is baffling to think where the runs would come from if Misbah misses out.

Since it is a dead rubber, there might be changes and some of the aforementioned cricketers might not even take the field, giving others an opportunity. But even then it should be a fascinating contest.

(Shrikant Shankar previously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)