The past year saw several attempts being made at having a bilateral series between India and Pakistan, but nothing materialised. So, a year after they last met in the 2015 World Cup, the two neighbours will clash in Dhaka at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on Saturday.
India face Pakistan at least twice in the next three weeks. One will be in the Asia Cup and on March 19 during the World Twenty20 in Dharamsala.
The stakes in an Indo-Pak clash are always high, irrespective of the event.
While March will provide an opportunity to Pakistan to erase the stigma of not having beaten India in an ICC event, Saturday will see India take another step towards winning back the trophy that eluded them in the past two editions. Led by skipper MS Dhoni, the India outfit has been churning out positive results in the past two series. A win over Pakistan will be the ultimate boost ahead of the WT20.
Dhoni has stressed many times in the last few weeks that they have a well-balanced side for the WT20. However, an encounter against Pakistan is the perfect litmus test for the team management to assess the players.
With encounters in the WT20 likely to be keenly fought, a good showing in a high-stake Indo-Pak clash should be enough for the team to narrow down on its requirements ahead of the ICC event.
Pakistan, on the other hand, enter the Asia Cup on the back of a below-average performance against New Zealand, England and Bangladesh. Their only success in past few months came against lowly Zimbabwe and a second-string Sri Lankan outfit.
They come to Dhaka with all their members having played in the just-concluded T20 Pakistan Super League (PSL), and are prepared for the vagaries of the T20 format.
India meet Pakistan on the back of two successive series wins in the T20 format. However, doubts still persist over Dhoni’s fitness. The keeper-batsman had played against Bangladesh in the opener but faced only two balls.
Both sides enter the contest with squads having an equal mix of experienced and young players.
As has been the tradition, the primary contest will be between India’s batsmen and Pakistan’s bowlers. The latter enter the series with a pace-heavy squad, with as many as four fast bowlers in the ranks.
The two games played so far in the series indicate that the wicket suits the bowlers more than the batsmen. Dew too is a concern. In the opening game against Bangladesh, India’s top order struggled to negotiate the up-and-down nature of the wicket.