Cricket

T20 World Cup 2021: Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi, Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan and other player battles

With the marquee India-Pakistan clash in the T20 World Cup 2021 set to be played later on Sunday, here are key player battles that could define the game.

T20 World Cup 2021: Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi, Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan and other player battles

Against Pakistan, Virat Kohli has scored a total of 254 runs in six T20Is at an average of 84.66, but should be wary of Shadab Khan’s deceptive googly. Image: AP / ICC

Not too long for the Battle Royale as India take on arch rivals Pakistan in their T20 World Cup 2021 opener.

This fixture, which has provided a few exciting finishes in the past, is set to witness some fiery one-on-one player battles on Sunday. This will be the start of a significant tournament for India skipper Virat Kohli, who will look to leave his captaincy job in the shortest format by guiding his team to Word Cup victory for the first time in 14 years.

As for Pakistan, the likes of Mohammed Rizwan and Babar Azam have been putting up consistent performances. The duo have added 1275 runs combined in T20Is this year, so the Indian bowlers will be wary of their threat.

Here, we take a look at key battles to watch out for in the marquee clash:

Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi

Rohit Sharma might be one of the most destructive batsmen in modern day limited-overs cricket, but it is safe to say he has had his fair share of struggles against left-arm pace.

Rohit averages only a bit above 21 against left-arm pace since 2019, while being dismissed against them on five occasions.

Rohit Sharma in action against Australia in the T20 World Cup warm-up match. AP

Rohit Sharma in action against Australia in the T20 World Cup warm-up match. AP

He struggled against left-arm pacers in T20 World Cups, scoring just 110 runs at a strike rate of little over 129, but Rohit should take inspiration from his 60-run knock against Australia in the warm-up match a few days ago.

That innings for Rohit came after a patchy run of form in the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL), so that should hold him in good stead heading into the clash.

As for Shaheen Afridi, he played a crucial role in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s triumph in the National T20 Cup, registering 12 wickets from six games, with best figures of 3/25.

In the warm-ups as well, he took two wickets apiece in the matches against West Indies and South Africa, and if the pitch offers any hint of swing, then it could be a spicy duel to watch out for.

Jasprit Bumrah vs Babar Azam

In-form pacer against in-form batsman. The Jasprit Bumrah vs Babar Azam contest is eagerly awaited.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam will be aiming to get his team off to an aggressive start, but he faces an equally aggressive bowler in Bumrah, who is amaster when it comes to executing the yorkers.

Babar in fact fell victim to a superb yorker not too long ago, against Kagiso Rabada in Pakistan’s warm-up match against South Africa. The captain, who has played late cuts from yorker deliveries before, tried to do something similar against Rabada but was beaten for pace.

Earlier this year, Bumrah endured a slow start to the IPL season, picking just six wickets in seven matches, but in the second half of the tournament, Bumrah regained his form, picking 15 wickets in seven matches.

While Bumrah did play the first warm-up game against England where he picked up a wicket, he was rested for the next one against Australia.

Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan

Kohli may have a slight disadvantage in this battle, given his weakness against leg-spinners, and with spinners playing a crucial part in turning tracks in UAE, it could be a task cut out for the Indian captain.

Against Pakistan, Virat Kohli has scored a total of 254 runs in six T20Is at an average of 84.66, but should be wary of Shadab Khan’s deceptive googly. Image: AP / ICC

Against Pakistan, Virat Kohli has scored a total of 254 runs in six T20Is at an average of 84.66, but should be wary of Shadab Khan’s deceptive googly. Image: AP / ICC

India and Pakistan meet in Dubai exactly 24 hours since the last match there, where West Indies were bowled out for just 55, with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali weaving magic with their spin bowling.

Against Pakistan, Kohli has scored a total of 254 runs in six T20Is at an average of 84.66, but should be wary of Shadab Khan’s deceptive googly, which could be a potential game-changer for Pakistan.

Mohammad Shami vs Mohammed Rizwan

Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Mohammed Rizwan’s form has been really good this year. He has amassed 752 runs at a strike rate of over 140 in T20Is this year. He is also the highest run-getter in T20Is this year, with fellow countryman Babar Azam second in the list with 523 runs.

Rizwan will be up against Mohammad Shami, who, along with Bumrah, will hope to do much damage with the ball.

Shami warmed up for the tournament with three wickets against England, but he conceded 40 runs. But what that game showed was that once Shami finds his rhythm, the batsmen will be up for a challenging task against the right-arm pacer.

Shami picked up 19 wickets in 14 games in the recently-concluded IPL. Rizwan has so far scored one century and seven fifties in T20Is this year, and while it means form could be on his side, an India-Pakistan contest is a different ball game altogether.

Varun Chakravarthy vs Haider Ali

It was not long ago since Haider Ali played a counterattacking knock of 91 runs off 53 balls outplayed Babar Azam’s century in a Northern vs Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup.

On 30 September, Central Punjab would have thought that a total of 200/2 was a safe bet, but Haider had other ideas. He smashed six fours and as many sixes at a strike rate of over 171.

But this is a different tournament with a different challenge. Haider will have his task cut out because of his struggles against left-arm orthodox. He only has a strike rate of 124 but does well against right-arm legbreak with a strike rate of over 175.

Varun Chakravarthy, meanwhile, has been effective and economical in the UAE, picking up 28 wickets in 23 T20s at an economy of 6.35. Even in the IPL, Varun has maintained an economy of below seven in the last two seasons, and can be even a lethal weapon in the death overs.

According to ESPN, Varun’s economy rate of 8.76 in the death overs in the last two editions of the IPL ranks fifth best among bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 75 balls.

Updated Date: October 24, 2021 12:09:23 IST

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