India have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup © PTI
India have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup © PTI

India take on Pakistan in their second fixture of Group 2, Match 19 of ICC World T20 2016 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. India, who came into this tournament on the back of  seven consecutive wins, were given a huge reality check by New Zealand, who beat them by 47 runs in their first World T20 fixture. Pakistan on the other hand, came into this tournament in shambles. Their performance in the Asia Cup was very ordinary, and the team was being lambasted by critics, left and right. Yet, they showed their mettle against an in-form Bangladesh side in their first World T20 fixture, beating them convincingly by 55 runs. Full Scorecard: India vs Pakistan, 19th T20 Match, Super 10 Group 2

India’s match against Pakistan was seen as a walkover for the hosts before the tournament began. But after taking into consideration the displays of both the teams in their opening games, many believe Pakistan have a slight upper hand against the hosts. India would hope the New Zealand game was a ‘one-off’ and would hope to get back to winning ways. Pakistan though, will look at this fixture an opportunity to avenge their Asia Cup loss and put the hosts in a vulnerable situation.

The strength of India lies in its batting. Both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma failed against New Zealand, but were in great nick before that game. Shikhar Dhawan played a great knock against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup final, and he is certainly a player for the big games. In the middle- order, the biggest plus for the hosts was the batting of MS Dhoni in the last game. With wickets falling at the other end, Dhoni showed great temperament and scored 30 runs. He will hope to get more support from the likes of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya. These three batsman have the capability of building an innings, as well as scoring boundaries.

In the bowling department, India have found a gem in Jasprit Bumrah, who under the guidance of Lasith Malinga in Mumbai Indians (MI), has learned to deliver yorkers on regular basis. He has been very well supported by Ashish Nehra, who has been a wicket-taking bowler in the powerplay overs for India. The spinners in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have a huge role to play, considering the pitches will be spinner-friendly. In Nagpur, both the spinners could not maximize the use of the pitch like the New Zealand spinners did. India would hope both of them will utilise the Eden Gardens pitch to the best of their capabilities.

Pakistan though, seem to have found confidence at the right point of time. Their victory against Bangladesh can be termed as a perfect all-round performance. In the top-order, it finally seems like they have got the right balance in Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Shehzad, followed by Mohammad Hafeez at No. 3. Pakistan would be delighted that Hafeez has finally found his touch back, and he will again be crucial against a strong Indian bowling line-up. In the middle-order, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed all showed flashes of brilliance in the Asia Cup, and the only negative point was the batting form of skipper Shahid Afridi, who was publicly criticized by many people. But Afridi replied to his critics with a  typical ‘Boom Boom’ knock of 49 in just 19 deliveries against Bangladesh, helping his side reach a mammoth score of 201.

Pace bowling for Pakistan will not be a problem in this tournament, knowing the fact they have Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz at their disposal. The trio, especially Aamer, bowled beautifully against Bangladesh, in a pitch which had very little assistance for bowlers. All the three bowlers are very different from each other, and they all give Afridi a very different option to attack. In spin, Pakistan do not have a genuine spinner in their side, hence Afridi, Malik and Imad Wasim would be expected to share the burden. Afridi especially would be crucial to his side’s success again, considering he bowled beautifully against Bangladesh and picked up a couple of wickets.

On paper, the Indian batting line-up would easily beat the Pakistan line-up. On the bowling front, Pakistan have the edge over their opposition in terms of pace bowling, but the hosts have a better line-up of spinners in their team. Before the start of the tournament, everyone would have placed their bets on India walking over Pakistan, but with the display of both the sides in their opening fixture, Pakistan will feel they have a slight upper-hand, knowing they have already played and won a game at the Eden Gardens.

(R Narayan is a reporter with CricketCountry)