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Five years after their bilateral cricket ties snapped due to the Mumbai terror attack, India and Pakistan are set to slug it out in what promises to be a high-voltage limited-over series starting with the first Twenty20 international on Tuesday.
The two-match T20 and three-match ODI series has been squeezed in between India's ongoing full series against the England cricket team, which has taken a break to go home for Christmas and New Year holidays.
India and Pakistan, which last played a bilateral series in 2007, squared off in multi-national events several times after 2008 but for the first time, a Pakistani cricket team will be hosted for a series after the attacks.
The Indian team is going through some testing times as they renew rivalry with Pakistan since the side has been struggling for success.
India did well in the T20s against England after being humiliated in Tests but bowling remains a persistent headache for them in all the formats.
The likes of Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and Eoin Morgan put the Indian attack on sword during the short T20 series and the Pakistan batsmen would be looking to exploit this weakness of the hosts.
Except for a spirited show put up by Ashok Dinda, none of the Indian bowlers made an impact on the English batsmen. Parvinder Awana, Ravichandran Ashwin and Piyush Chawla have all struggled to get wickets.
This may prompt skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to give a chance to either Abhimanyu Mithun or Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Surprisingly, Yuvraj Singh was the most successful bowler with six wickets and he also batted stupendously for India. India would want the Chandigarh boy to continue with his good touch against a very tricky opponent.
Flamboyant Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and skipper Dhoni himself have had some runs under their belts and they would like to continue in the same vein against Pakistan. It will be interesting to see if Dhoni gives a chance to Ambati Rayudu, considering his past performances in this format of the game.
But it will be a tough test for Indian batsmen against Pakistan's formidable pace attack, led by Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir. Not only the pacers but Pakistan have an extremely good spin attack in the form of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and captain Mohammad Hafeez to choke the strong Indian batting. Afridi's dwindling form has been a worry for the
Pakistani captain which at times muzzles the team's batting prospects. However, Hafeez has tremendous confidence in his all round abilities.
Pakistan have landed in India after making wholesale changes to their bowling. They have made six changes to the squad that went to Sri Lanka for the T20 World Cup. Fast bowler Junaid Khan, who was dropped from World T20 squad, has been included for his ability to do well in the death overs.
Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Amin and M Irfan have also made a comeback while Asad Ali and Zulfiqar Babar are the other inclusions. India and Pakistan met last time in the 2012 T20 World Cup which the former won by eight wickets.
In 2007 T20 World Championships, India won both the clashes. In the league stage, the match ended in a tie and India won via a bowl-out. In the final, India defeated Pakistan by five runs to win the trophy.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (C), Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar.
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