Indian batting versus Pakistan bowling, that has been the template for Indo-Pak contests over the years. It’s the same this time around too except that the traditional weak link of both the teams — India’s bowling and Pakistan’s batting — looks even weaker.
While the Indian selectors are throwing the ball to different bowlers, trying to find a more stable and workable combination, the visitors look quite short on batting with hardly any big name to boast of.
How many would have heard about young and upcoming batmen like Ahmed Shehzad, Junaid Khan and Umar Amin? That the more established and promising ones like batsman Umar Akmal haven’t lived up to expectations makes the picture more grim for the visitors.
No big deal
Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez, while acknowledging India’s batting strength, wasn’t losing sleep over it. “Indian batting has always been strong but then matches are won not just on batting. We have a strong bowling line-up and decent batting. We are well-balanced.”
One can’t but agree with Hafeez, especially about the bowling. Despite having lost two of their best pacemen — Mohd Amir and Mohd Asif — to spot-fixing, their bowling looks as good as ever.
Umar Gul, one of the few fast bowlers who is good in all three formats, and Sohail Tanveer give a good look to their pace attack.
Then there’s mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal, who hardly gives any leeway. Throw in an equally stingy Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez into the spin attack and this bowling lineup looks pretty daunting.
While Pakistan believe this attack gives them an edge — Tanveer was quick to let this known — India captain MS Dhoni refused to concede that the visitors held the advantage.
“It's not about how good you look on paper. It's always about how the individual reacts to the situations he faces. I think the teams are evenly placed right now,” he said.
In the game of looking for chinks in the opponent's armour, Pakistan were quick to spot India's not-so-impressive pace attack.
“They are not experienced, they have played in the Indian Premier League but international cricket is different. They don't know who to play and who not to. They are just experimenting. So, yes, we definitely have an edge over them on that count,” said Tanveer.
While India batsmen looked good in the two T20s against England, this attack will ask them tougher questions. But, as Hafeez said, form matters little in India-Pakistan contests. Whoever handles the pressure better on a given day walks away the winner.