For fans of India-Pakistan cricket — a cricketing rivalry bigger than the Ashes — a wait of a few months is next to blasphemy.
The past decade hasn’t been very generous in terms of this high-stakes encounter with only one bilateral ODI series been played since 2008 while the Test stage has seen a complete drought. The International Cricket Council and Asian Cricket Council events then have brought some relief to cricketing fans and with each tournament, come new hopes for thawing of relations.
Even this year, there was unrest among cricketing fans due to tension between ICC and Board of Control for Cricket in India regarding the new ICC constitution leading to the defending champions threatening to pull out of the tournament.
However, good news soon arrived as the BCCI gave the go ahead. It’s been over a year since the last Indo-Pak encounter, two since the last encounter in a 50-over game and the hype is the same as ever before as the tickets for this epic encounter — termed as the mother of all matches by most — sold out about a month before the encounter.
For a Pakistani fan, this is the best platform for an Indo-Pak encounter as this is the only ICC tournament where Pakistan have not only beaten India but also lead 2-1 in the head-to-head charts (India lead in the other two ICC events by 4-0 in World T20s and 6-0 in World Cups).
With this being the third time Pakistan face India at Edgbaston after the 2004 and 2013 encounters, and with each side having won one match each, the battle is set to be an epic one. With the pitch normally offering assistance to the bowlers, especially the pacers, this might be the best battle yet. With the average score in the venue being 223 overall and 265 since 2010 and the record between sides having won either batting or fielding first being pretty much the same either way, it’s all set to be a thrilling encounter.
Pakistan will step on the ground under the recently-appointed captain Sarfraz Ahmed who will be eager to continue the advantage against India in the tournament as well as replicate his T20I track record in ODI cricket.
With both sides filled with excellent bowlers, it’s all set to be a great tussle between bat and ball. Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, and Wahab Riaz in the pace department all have had their moments against India. Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan, the new additions to the side, have already shown their worth.
The batting, though fragile, has shown time and again that it’s capable of causing major upsets in international cricket. The side that has been in the rebuilding phase since as long as the millennials can remember, will be going up against arguably the best limited overs side in international cricket. There’s always hope for the Pakistani fans that even though their side is ranked 8 in the ICC ODI rankings, they can pull off a win against any opposition; unpredictable as they are.
India, on the other hand, are a side capable of owning any ground with their batting and bowling. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami will try to make sure that Pakistan doesn’t get enough breathing space with the new ball, given Pakistan’s struggles against the swinging delivery. To top it off, India’s highly experienced spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, will make sure Pakistan doesn’t get settled too easily.
The batting from India has always been strong and deep, with match-winning stars coming one after the other. Virat Kohli will have to lead the side well, having already lost to Pakistan once in the Asia Cup under his captaincy but this time, he’ll have MS Dhoni, one of the best limited player and captain ever to play the game, to guide him along the way.
At the 2003 World Cup, Waqar Younis led Pakistan, a side that had taken matches out from the clutches of opposition teams and won them in style. But this World Cup was the World Cup of heartbreaks for multiple sides termed as favourites.
Apart from Pakistan, England, West Indies and the hosts South Africa all were eliminated in the group stages of the tournament. The Pakistani side contained legends like Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis was supplemented by youngsters. The rest of the tournament was perhaps a formality for most of the viewers, it was the India-Pakistan game that really mattered.
In that match, Saeed Anwar played a beautiful innings, his ton guiding Pakistan to a decent 271. With the bowling that Pakistan had, it should’ve been enough but the Pakistani bowlers were taken to the cleaners by Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early on and the dreaded upper-cuts to the lightning Pakistani pacers were sown into the minds of the millennials till the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy offered some relief to the heartbroken Pakistani fans.
Since as far back as the Pakistan-India rivalry in ICC tournaments goes, every single time the tide could’ve turned either way as it was Pakistan’s best chance to win it yet. The 2011 semi-final, 2015, 2003, 1992 group matches, the ’99 super 6s match, the ’96 quarter-final, almost all of these matches Pakistan could easily have won had they not buried their heads in the sand.
Courtesy of catches put down and with Pakistan not being up to the mark with the bat in almost each of the World Cup matches, India were to seized victory. Pakistan perhaps willingly drowned in their mistakes and overconfidence.
For Pakistan, the ICC Champions Trophy has been a tournament offering new hope and England has been a venue to always look forward to with the woeful campaign of 2013 being the exception.
Updated Date: Jun 03, 2017 17:36 PM