India will face arch-rivals Pakistan in a Super-12 match of the T20 World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 23rd October. India has traditionally done very well against Pakistan in World Cups but has also lost their last two matches against them, including one at the Asia Cup in August.
However, India’s record against Pakistan in World Cup matches on Australian soil is impeccable. They beat their arch-rivals in Australia’s one-day World Cups in 1992 and 2015. Now, we will look at a few factors that might determine the fate of the India vs Pakistan match at the upcoming T20 World Cup.
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Pakistan’s superior bowling attack
On paper, Pakistan has a superior bowling attack, which is a key factor in the match. They missed the services of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who should be fit enough to play in Melbourne at the Asia Cup and yet won the match. Afridi’s inclusion will only strengthen their bowling attack, with the 22-year-old fast bowler adding variety to the attack with his left-arm swing bowling. He will move the ball back into the right-handed batters and might well fancy his chances of trapping them leg-before in front of the wicket on the fast surface of Melbourne.
Moreover, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf will try to exploit the fast conditions to get wickets with the new ball. Shah can bowl with an upright seam and move the ball early in the innings. He also has a very good bouncer that can trouble a lot of batters. Rauf has recently been Pakistan’s most consistent bowler and rarely bowls a bad delivery. He also can bowl outswingers and will complement Shah, who swings the balls into the right-hander, very well.
Add to that the spin-bowling of Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, and the Pakistanis definitely hold the upper hand as far as bowling is concerned. In comparison, India’s pacers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Harshal Patel have leaked many runs, especially in the death overs. They will have to get their act together if India is to win against their neighbours down under. However, India’s spin-attack, comprising the likes of Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal, can hold its own against Pakistan, which might help India a lot.
India’s batting holding the edge
If Pakistan has a better bowling attack, the Indians hold the upper hand in the batting department. Veterans like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have scored runs all over the world throughout their respective careers and will try to put their experience to good use. Youngsters like Suryakumar Yadav and K L Rahul will also try to make their mark, with Yadav being in sublime touch against Australia. His wristy elegance might come good against Pakistan, too.
Rohit, meanwhile, will enjoy playing his pulls and hooks on the bouncy tracks of Australia. His good form is critical for India’s success. Kohli, too, might not continue to play T20 cricket for too long and will try to play his well-timed drives on the fast pitch of Melbourne. However, India will have to take a call regarding either Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik as the wicket-keeper or actually accommodating both.
In comparison, Pakistan is a bit too dependent on their openers, Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan, to get their runs. Azam can use his drives extensively on Australian wickets, and Rizwan, more comfortable playing off his back-foot, will enjoy the conditions, too. Pakistan’s batting hopes will hinge considerably on those two, and it is up to the Indian bowlers to provide their team with an early breakthrough.
Melbourne’s big ground
The MCG is one of the world’s biggest cricket grounds, and clearing the ropes there will not be easy. The importance of having big hitters on the side comes into play here. This factor might make Asif Ali a key player for the Pakistanis and tilt the scale in favour of Pant. Both can clear the ground with their lusty blows and might be key players for their respective teams in Melbourne.
Moreover, the spinners might also get scalps by flighting the ball more, thereby tempting the batters to go for big shots. One might see a lot of catches being taken at the boundary line in Melbourne. Someone like Chahal can toss it up and take the pace off the ball, thereby making it necessary for the batter to apply his whole strength to clear the ropes. On the other hand, Nawaz’s left-arm spin and Shadab’s leg-break will take the ball into the left-hander, and thus, Pant might find it convenient to use his strength to lift the spinner over the mid-wicket or long-on boundaries. Pant’s ability to play shots on the side will make a critical player against the spinners in the middle overs.
One can safely conclude by saying that we are in for a Sunday treat in Melbourne, and the contest should not leave a cricket lover disappointed. The pacers on the fast, bouncy pitch will be advantageous for Pakistan, while the stroke players will help India’s cause.
I like to watch, analyze and write about various sports and have been writing for different websites for the last five years. I reside in Kolkata, India