Ever since the 2007 World Cup, India have held a distinct edge over Pakistan in Twenty20 internationals. Going into the match at Mirpur, both teams have met six times with India winning four and losing one while the first ever T20 match between them, in Durban during the group stages of the World Twenty20, ended in a scintillating draw.
Although this is the shortest format, the pressure will be no less than in any other India-Pakistan match. All eyes will be on how the most experienced players handle the pressure. India will definitely look forward to Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni to make their presence felt at crucial stages of the game. With a back spasm keeping Dhoni on the edge, it will be interesting how he approaches this match.
The India captain has ruled out promoting himself in the batting order but such has been the topsy-turvy nature of India-Pakistan matches over the years that nothing can be ruled out. Yuvraj has had a quiet return to international cricket, and apart from a few dazzling strokes, he hasn’t played much of a role in India’s fine T20 run in the past few weeks. While his batting might again be under be scrutiny, Yuvraj can justify his position with his left-arm spin, provided Dhoni turns to him.
Among the seniors, Nehra seems most at ease. Not only was he quick against Bangladesh, he also took wickets. This is also one clash where a player like Harbhajan Singh could make himself count. But with Dhoni sticking to his set side, it looks difficult for him to get a place.
With the Pakistan Super League giving them ample T20 exposure, Pakistan would be eager to send out a strong message to India. Some of Pakistan’s seasoned campaigners too have a few points to prove. Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi has been around for two decades and nothing would please him more than taking out India in the last leg of his career. Same goes for Mohammed Hafeez, 35, who once played for KKR in the IPL and is an extremely effective all-rounder.
Hafeez, who is serving a 12-month ban from bowling due to illegal action, will not be available to bowl his off-spin. In Shoaib Malik, Pakistan has another proven all-rounder who would want to settle a few issues after a mediocre PSL. At 35, pacer Mohammad Sami can be considered a veteran but he has played just seven T20Is in his 15-year career. Only a week ago though, Sami took 5/8 against Karachi Kings in the PSL, so all eyes will be on the bowling combination Afridi goes for.