India vs Pakistan, World Cup: Where the greatest rivalry can be won and lost | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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India vs Pakistan, World Cup 2023: Where the mother of all battles could be won and lost

Oct 14, 2023 06:52 AM IST

India vs Pakistan World Cup: We present the critical aspects of the game that IND and PAK must excel at to claim bragging rights.

It's time for the grand-daddy of them all. India vs Pakistan… at the World Cup. Not only is this the greatest cricketing rivalry, India vs Pakistan is the global equivalent of the Super Bowl into five. In terms of WWE, it is as big as WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble combined into one. So obviously, when the stakes are so high, no amount of adjectives, hype, 0-7 scoreline, Mauka-Mauka gimmicks can do justice to the electricity that is an India-Pakistan World Cup match.

As two teams head into Saturday's absolute cracker of a contest at the world's biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Babar Azam and his band of boys are up against history. A wait stretching 31 years. It was in 1992 that India and Pakistan began this World Cup feud, but while there have been many memorable moments gracing this three-decade long story, there is only one constant. India have won each and every single one of those contests. Nonetheless, the Narendra Modi Stadium marks a fresh day, and for Pakistan, the belief should be 'It's never too late'. Streaks are meant to be broken; that is the truth of every sport, but whether today will be the occasion… we shall find out.

All-time greats Wasim Akram and Sunil Gavaskar have repeatedly pointed out that whichever team handles pressure better, will win. However, when it's India-Pakistan, different phases of the game will dictate the outcome, and those who ace them are likely to have their hands raised. With this in mind, HT Sports presents the key points of the game that India and Pakistan must master to ensure bragging rights.

Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam will need to put everything aside and concentrate the epic that is India vs Pakistan.(ANI )
Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam will need to put everything aside and concentrate the epic that is India vs Pakistan.(ANI )

Surviving the opening burst

This is where the temp of the game is going to be set. The last two instances when Pakistan had the upper hand over India is when their seamers wrecked the Men in Blue's top order – Champions Trophy 2017 final and the 2021 T20 World Cup. But this time there is a catch. Shaheen Afridi has leaked 103 runs in two World Cup matches for just two wickets and his new-ball partner Naseem Shah is not playing this tournament. Haris Rauf or Hassan Ali with the new ball are not as threatening as Shaheen or Naseem, which hands India a slight edge. The last two games in which Shaheen had a crack at India, he had contrasting returns - 4/35 and 1/72. If Shaheen has another off day, it's advantage India. If not, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja will have a huge responsibility on their shoulders.

How Babar and Pakistan tackle Bumrah and Kuldeep

Pakistan's middle-order has peaked at the right time with the emergence of Saud Shakeel. And if you couple it with Mohammad Rizwan's glorious touch along with the discovery that is Abdullah Shafiq the opener, Pakistan's batting seems to be ticking all boxes. That is, until it runs into the steaming engine that is Jasprit Bumrah and the wily Kuldeep Yadav. Ever since his return from injury, Bumrah has been a nightmare for batters, an absolute menace. Flat or seaming pitch, does not matter. He will be at your alley continuously, sending snorters past your nose.

Last month's Asia Cup is a case in point. Even though Kuldeep ended with a five-wicket-haul, it was Bumrah's early wicket of Imam-ul-Haq and the vicious movement which he generated that stifled Pakistan and allowed Kuldeep and Hardik Pandya to feed on the uncertainty. Babar Azam, who hasn't set the World Cup, nor his record against India – an average of 27 in 7 matches – on fire, cannot ask for a better opportunity. If he can unsettle Bumrah, he can be Pakistan's playmaker. And as for Kuldeep, the fact that Rizwan on Thursday batted an hour in the nets, sweeping and reverse-sweeping a local left-arm wrist-spinner, is proof enough of his threat.

Win the toss, bat first

Nothing; and I mean nothing can be as nerve-racking than chasing in a big match. Look no further than the CT final and the 2019 World Cup tie, where the team batting first posted 338 and 336. Pakistan may be coming into Ahmedabad on the high of pulling off the highest successful chase in World Cup history, the Sri Lankan bowling, with all due respect is no match to India's bowling arsenal. The strip on which the India-Pakistan fixture will unravel isn't the one used in the opener between England and New Zealand. The first look of the pitch on the eve of the match suggests that it might be a belter, raising the possibility of an 8th 300-plus total lurks. Our best bet is to get an early nose ahead. Win the toss, opt to bat, put up a big score and hope your bowlers do the rest.

Don't let history weigh you down

All good things must come to an end, as will India's undefeated run against Pakistan at World Cups. But the more both teams think about it, higher are the chances of them going off track. Trust us, Babar must have been reminded of it more times than he can remember, and even though he dismissed the notion that his team is not bothered about whether the pattern will break, he did admit that India vs Pakistan is not just another game. Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma was a lot calmer playing down a pressure-cooker of a situation for the team batting second.

During the 2015 World Cup, following India's 76-run win over Pakistan in Adelaide, MS Dhoni saw the future when he said 'There will come a time when we will lose. It could happen in the next World Cup or four World Cups down the line. It's not something that will stay till the world exists'. So yeah, So yeah, the streak may or may not die today, but the less it remains the fulcrum, the better stead it will keep both India and Pakistan in.

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli loves batting against Pakistan. The numbers may suggest 665 runs from 15 ODIs, but Kohli's impact goes far beyond these figures. Nine out of 10 times when Kohli succeeds against Pakistan, India win. Asia Cup 2012, World T20 2016, World Cup 2019, and most recently, last year's T20 World Cup are some examples that come to mind, and once again, Kohli will be at the centre of India's batting against Pakistan today.

In another clash billed around the Kohli vs Babar debate, it is worth noting that there is a huge gulf between the two. In the matches that these two greats have played against each other, Kohli is miles ahead with 523 runs from 9 innings with an average of 81.16, whereas Babar's figures read an underwhelming 204 runs from 8 innings at an average of 28. Do the math. If Pakistan get Kohli early, they rewrite history and sleep well. Otherwise, it could be a long night for Pakistan with another Kohli epic possibly loading.

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