Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Pallekele International Cricket Stadium

Pressure will be upon India and Pakistan in the marquee Asia Cup match

Pallekele, 1 September, 2023

The world of cricket, especially in these parts, is agog with a potential needle clash between India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup match here on Saturday. The locals and those who take the thrill out of a contest between two competent teams, can not be far removed from Saturday’s blockbuster brush between Asia’s most popular teams which go into a different mindset before the captains step out for the toss half an hour before the first ball is sent down.

Apart from the teams that will be engrossed in the contest at the venue, a few kilometres from Kandy, the very many fans from India India, the Middle East and the United Kingdom do not miss the opportunity to be present at the venue of live action to feel the stadium atmosphere.

The cost of airfare being a little over Rs. 20000 and the hospitality costs being not exorbitant, one would expect plane loads to land here for the 3 PM start on Saturday. Many could even extend their stay for the India-Nepal match on Monday. The die-hard would always root for his and her respective team, and pray for a win, but the teams believe that the on-field activity is only a sporting contest, which may not be the case.

But all said and done the mere fact of an India -Pakistan sends the pulse racing. One cannot outrightly shrug off the pressure factor. More than a decade ago India’s most successful captain in one-day internationals (who has led in over 100 matches) Mahendra Singh Dhoni articulated an opinion that pressure comes with responsibility, and one has to absorb it.

The present team’s key players like batsmen Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli and others like Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah have been in the thick of Dhoni’s campaigns and know how to deal with pressure. Dhoni has led India in 200 ODIS and won 110 for a success rate of 55.00. Virat Kohli has led India in 95 matches and won 65 for a success rate of 68.42. Dhoni has 61.11 per cent success against Pakistan, winning 11 of the 18 matches he was captain in.

Sharma has a cent per cent record against Pakistan in 50 overs a side match: he has led in two and won both scoring 52 and an unbeaten 111, in a span of five days ( September 19 to September 23). In the absence of K.L. Rahul, the India skipper is likely to. Open with Shubman Gill who has scored 1208 runs as an opener, but he will find the Pakistan pace attack hot to handle, especially facing left-arm seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf.

India's No. 3 will be Kohli who has scored 536 runs in 13 innings with 2 x100s and as many 50s. Kohli will be followed by Shreyas Iyer who has not turned out for India in any colour after he damaged his back during the home series against Australia in April. He has been declared fit his good health certificate has solved a tricky issue around the No. 4 spot. Iyer has played 42 matches and scored 1631 runs. Left-hander Ishan Kishan is likely to be the keeper-batsman.

A major change in the last two years has been Rahul Dravid taking charge as the Head Coach after the ICC World Twenty20 in the United Arab Emirates in October - November 2021.

The Sharma-Dravid has worked on quite a few cricketers for the World Cup in India and the Asia Cup offers an opportunity to put them through the rigours here in the six-team tournament. With Nepal being the second team in Group 'A', India's entry into the Super 4 should be a formality. The Super 4 stage will have two from the Group, 'B' in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

In the recent three-match series between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the potent Pakistan pace attack dismissed Afghanistan for 59 in 19.2 overs, but Afghanistan scored 300 for 5 in the second match and 209 in the second.

The slow and low pitches enabled Afghanistan to compete in two matches at Hambantota and Colombo. India would look at these scores with interest.

India picked a team for the two big competitions/(the Asia Cup and the World Cup taking into account the multiple skills of players like Hardik Pandya, Ravinder Jadeja, Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur. The Chairman of the selection committee, Ajit Agarkar, has stated that the 15-member squad for the World Cup will be drawn from. the 17 selected for the Asia Cup. There is the probability of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar being added to the provisional World Cup squad.

India and Pakistan have played 132 matches and the country across the border has won 73 and lost 55. In the last 12 years, India has won 9 of the 13 matches played, 10 in the Asia and World Cup matches. Saturday's match will be the first for both teams since the World Cup match at Old Trafford in June 2019.

The only irritating aspect could be rain interference: on Thursday Sri Lanka defeated Bangladesh in a match that was not impacted by rain. That's what the two teams and the fans are looking for!


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