On Sunday, India and Pakistan will face off in the Super 12 stage of the 2021 T20 World Cup in Dubai. This will be the two arch-rivals’ first game of the tournament, and both will be looking to get off to the best possible start by winning the match. India, led by Virat Kohli, warmed up for the tournament with wins over England and Australia, while Pakistan beat defending champions West Indies in their first warm-up game before falling to South Africa in their second. The match will be the sixth in the T20 World Cup between the two teams.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that India’s current dominance over Pakistan isn’t based on voodoo, superstition, jinxes, or just sheer luck. When Virat Kohli’s men take the field against Babar Azam’s men on Sunday, they’re heavily favoured to keep their perfect World Cup record due to the rather boring, simple fact that they have the better players.
There appears to be little cause for concern in India. Their two warm-up games against England and Australia reveal a team in complete command of their preparations, calm despite the various combinations and personnel they can deploy on any given day. The second half of the IPL 2021 concluded last week in the UAE, and India could not have had a better build-up to the tournament. Their T20 record against Pakistan is 7 wins in 8 games. On paper, there’s little to worry them, and despite the drama and theatre of an India-Pakistan match, no World Cup game has ever been as predictable as this one.
If all of this appears to be a challenge for Pakistan, it is. It’s not captain Babar’s fault that Pakistan is such a heavy underdog in their opener, but it is his problem to try to solve. Pakistan has also had recent practise in the UAE, where the second half of the Pakistan Super League was held in June. However, while the Indian team was competing in the IPL, Pakistan’s preparation plans were blown up when New Zealand and England cancelled last-minute tours. Even if it isn’t quite the same thing, a National T20 Cup pushed forward to give the World Cup squad some competitive practise will have helped.
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Since 2007, India and Pakistan have met eight times in T20Is, five of which have been in T20 World Cups, and the men in blue have dominated their neighbours, winning seven games while the men in green have won just one. India has won each of the five T20 World Cups. The last time these two teams met was in the T20 World Cup in March 2016, when India easily won by chasing down a score of 119 in 16 overs. Ashish Nehra, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja led a spectacular bowling performance that limited Pakistan to 118 runs in the match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium is a high-scoring venue, but some games have resulted in low totals. In T20 Internationals, the average first innings score at the stadium is 144, while the average second innings score is 122. Recently, the ground witnessed both high and low totals during IPL 2021 matches. Spinners will benefit from the stadium’s assistance, as is typical of UAE grounds.
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- KL Rahul has mastered the art of scoring runs in T20 cricket, but the question that has plagued him in recent years is whether he has been doing so at the optimal rate. Rahul said at the end of the IPL 2021 season that he didn’t always bat “the way he wanted to” with Punjab Kings because team dynamics dictated otherwise. He finished IPL 2021 with a 98* off 42, and in the warm-ups, he’s hit 51 off 24 and 39 off 31. Will India’s greater depth allow Rahul to be a no-holds-barred T20 batter? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
- Fakhar Zaman can reach the heights he did in a high-stakes game against India four years ago. And, while India learned a lesson from the way they bowled to him in the Champions Trophy final, the left-hander has begun to hit form just in time. He was Pakistan’s best player in the warm-ups against the West Indies and South Africa, scoring 98 runs in 52 balls without being dismissed once. Batting one drop instead of opener may relieve him of the pressure of getting his team off to a fast start.
- In the upcoming match, Jasprit Bumrah is the player to keep an eye on. The 27-year-old pacer has 59 wickets in 50 games with an economy rate of 6.67. After Yuzvendra Chahal, he is India’s second-highest wicket-taker in T20Is.