Subcontinental giants, seeking the right start to their campaigns, play down the pressure-cooker scenario
The ICC T20 World Cup will be set alight when India and Pakistan meet in a big-ticket clash on Sunday.
There’s no doubt that the contest between the sub-continental giants will attract global interest even beyond the cricket fraternity.
But both teams, with face-offs becoming as rare as a hailstorm in the Emirates, have been trying their best to play down the pressure-cooker scenario associated with the game.
Understandably so. More than earning brownie points for winning the match-that-matters-most for respective fans, India and Pakistan would be gunning for an ideal start to their World Cup campaign.
Moreover, with both teams having hardly faced each other in the shortest format of the game — eight matches in 14 years, including the two famous matches in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 — there isn’t too much of personal rivalry on the field.
In this respect, India will be hoping that Varun Chakravarthy, the mystery spinner touted to be India’s X-factor, will spin his web around the Pakistan batters, none of whom have faced him earlier.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be looking to captain Babar Azam to giude its relatively inexperienced unit to glory. The fact that he will have the guidance of old warhorses Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will certainly help it soak up the big-match pressure.
Both Malik and Hafeez were part of the inaugural T20 edition 14 Septembers ago. For India, only vice-captain Rohit Sharma featured in that memorable edition in South Africa. Having excelled as a rookie in 2007, Rohit will be hoping for the likes of Rishabh Pant and Chakravarthy to deliver under pressure.
But more than the rookies, India will be hoping to get the team balance right. Resolving the muddle of a back-up bowler remains the key for India to start its crusade to regain the T20 World Cup after a prolonged gap on a winning note.
Playing Pakistan in the opener would certainly invoke memories of the 2007 World Cup. Thanks to a washout against Scotland, the game that finished with a bowl-out versus Pakistan was India’s first match at the T20 World Cup. The Men in Blue, who won the bowl-out, will be hoping for the same result on Sunday.