India have a brilliant 12-2 winning record against Pakistan in ICC events and will like to make it 13-2.
London: India and Pakistan once again square off at the global stage, this time in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy. It was exactly two weeks back that Virat Kohli’s Team India thrashed Pakistan in the tournament opener at the Edgbaston in Birmingham.
Fast forward to two weeks, both teams have had a fantastic tournament, despite Pakistan struggling with injuries and batting order. India, too, would like to forget their only loss to Sri Lanka and come into this game with high confidence.
After the draws and groups for the Champions Trophy were confirmed, International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richardson had shared his thoughts on why India and Pakistan were drawn in the same group.
“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event. It’s hugely important from an ICC point of view. It’s massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. It’s fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick. So long as the pools are balanced, it’s silly to avoid (the fixture) when you can fairly cater for it,” he had told to a British daily last year.
The cricket’s governing body had its wish fulfilled as the arch-rivals clashed in their opening game. But India versus Pakistan final, in an ICC event, is pretty much like a sweet dream for the ICC. People will pour in at the stadium, TV ratings will go sky high and ICC, in all likelihood, will have their cash registers ringing with Virat Kohli and Co taking on Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistani side at The Oval on Sunday in London in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final.
Defending champions India were always one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the championship and while there was a blip after a defeat against Sri Lanka in their second Group B game. But apart from that, India have played like a champion side beating Pakistan (by 124 runs), South Africa (by 8 wickets) and Bangladesh (by 9 wickets in the semifinal) in their road to the final.
Pakistan, ranked eighth in the ICC ODI rankings, on the other hand, have stayed true to their template of cricket; unpredictable, thrilling, making their fans gasp for breath and eventually punching above their weight to pull off a fantastic win against a top team like England in the semifinals and against world number one ranked ODI side South Africa in the group stage.
They have done so with a team, whose selection and preparations were marred by PSL spot-fixing saga which saw the otherwise certainties in the squad – Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Irfan being ruled out of being featured in cricket activities.
Virat Kohli, like his predecessor MS Dhoni, had played down the hype around India versus Pakistan final. In fact, “impressed” with Pakistan’s turnaround after defeat against India in the opening game, Kohli praised the Sarfraz Ahmed and Co. for making it to the final.
"I've been very impressed. The turnaround has been magnificent. Obviously, if you reach the finals you have to play some good cricket, and credit to them (Pakistan), they've turned things around for themselves really well. They've beaten sides that looked really strong against them, but the belief they showed on the field, the way they played together as a team,” Kohli said after India’s thumping win against Mashrafe Mortaza-led Bangladeshi side in the semifinal on Thursday.
But come June 18th, Kohli and Co will not give an inch as the arch-rivals set foot on the field in an ICC event final 10 years after the Johannesburg showdown in the inaugural edition of the ICC World Twenty20 which India won by 5 runs after the Misbah-ul-Haq mistimed scoop landed in Sreesanth’s hands off Joginder Sharma’s ball.
While the Indian pacers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – have done a fine job in India’s road to the final, showing a remarkable ability to bounce after a defeat against Angelo Mathews and Co, Ravindra Jadeja is starting to find his groove with R Ashwin for a company makes Indian bowling stronger. While Hardik Pandya has been patchy with the ball, Kedar Jadhav’s performance against Bangladesh will help Kohli to play around with his fifth bowlers’ option.
Indian batting has been rock solid with all their top three batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan (317 runs), Rohit Sharma (304 runs) and Kohli (253 runs) enjoying a fine run of form. While two of India’s most experienced campaigners – Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni have not had many opportunities to bat longer, the two have notched up a fifty each when they had a chance.
Pakistan’s strength, as it has always been, is their bowling with young Hasan Ali shining bright. While there have been the likes of Mohmmed Amir and Junaid Khan, it is the 23-year-old right-arm pacer who had overshadowed every other Pakistani bowler. He may not have the express pace like the fellow pacers from the squad, but he has been accurate whenever asked to bowl and swings the ball just enough to trouble the batsmen and more importantly has the knack of taking wickets and squeeze the flow of runs.
While Amir has been injured and is sitting out, Wahab Riaz has hurt his ankle and has been ruled out of ICC Champions Trophy, Junaid Khan has been a back-up, Rumman Raees is a kid fresh on the blocks, Hasan is the guy around whom Pakistan’s bowling plans seem to have revolved.
Pakistan’s batting, despite the presence of their ‘attack from the word go’ opener Fakhar Zaman has been a cause of concern. While Fakhar, with his audacious strokeplay at the top, has been a revelation, Babar Azam’s lack of runs is a worrying factor. More so as the experienced duo of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez have not delivered as much as they should have.
While Azhar Ali has two fifties, including one in the semifinal against England, against his name in four games in the tournament, the lower strike rates of everyone, barring Fakhar, puts a lot of pressure on Sarfraz Ahmed’s shoulder in the later stages of the innings. The task may get even more difficult against India for Pakistan as Indian bowlers have done a fine job choking runs.
India, who have made it to their fourth final in the last seven ICC events starting since ICC World Cup 2011, have a brilliant 12-2 winning record against Pakistan in ICC events. While ICC Champions Trophy remains the only event where India have tasted defeat against Pakistan, they have won their last two encounters in the said tournament against the arch-rivals.
Pakistan, though, with their proven abilities to come out on top against the odds will be eager to stop India from completing a hat-trick of wins in the Champions Trophy and take the record to 13-2 as the teams square off in what is going to be a keenly-watched encounter.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (Captain and wicketkeeper), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Mohammed Amir, Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail.