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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Can Pakistan breathe life into rivalry with India?

Can Pakistan breathe life into rivalry with India?

Match facts

June 4, 2017
Start time 10.30am local (0930 GMT)
Fleming: In-form Wahab Riaz inspires everyone
Big picture

Somewhere between what many see as a war and players say is just another game, somewhere between a classic and a dud, somewhere between a non-international becoming massive organically and the ICC planning draws to make sure this cash cow is flogged at every world event, lies the hard-to-define, often mundane but sometimes magical India-Pakistan cricket rivalry, which renews itself in the teams' first game of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Aside from the heightened nationalism surrounding it, this match comes with less baggage than India-Pakistan fixtures of old. Largely because Pakistan have fallen behind, the last five "big" matches between these sides - 2012 World T20, 2013 Champions Trophy, 2014 World T20, 2015 World Cup 2015 and 2016 World T20 - have been quite one-sided. There were flashes of competition in their last ICC encounter, but few are expecting a high-quality thriller. There are no chances of an anti-climax, because the bar is set low.
Once the desis - a collective term for Indian and Pakistani expats - enter Edgbaston, though, they will transform this match from being just another match. In 2009, when Pakistan and India played a World T20 warm-up at The Oval, the atmosphere there was more electric than the tournament final. Expect more.
On the field, Pakistan will look to catch a team that has had other issues on the hop. The last time there was such unrest between an India coach and the senior players - as we are being told - was in the 2007 World Cup. There is bound to be insecurity in the camp, with people looking over their shoulders, but sometimes a high-profile cricket match forces players to put their energies in the same direction.
Pakistan's challenge is more cricketing. They have fallen behind Bangladesh in terms of being in touch with modern limited-overs cricket. Pakistan's Test cricket has coped, but limited-overs cricket is where their isolation has hurt them the most. The PSL is the youngest of the T20 leagues, and their players don't get too many contracts in other leagues. They are not part of the conversation. They are not always abreast with the latest tactics, which are ephemeral in modern limited-overs cricket. Once innovators, Pakistan have been left behind. They will need every bit of regeneration, and unrest in the other camp, to beat an opponent they have beaten only four times in their last 15 attempts.
Form guide

India LWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan WWLLL
In the spotlight

Not that there was any danger he would not get it, but now more than ever Virat Kohli will be in the spotlight. In 10 ODIs, he has scored two hundreds against Pakistan, averaging 41.44. In 14 ODIs in England, he has one century and an average of 38.54. Acceptable numbers, but not quite in the stratosphere that Kohli exists elsewhere and against other opponents. Add to it the attention he has attracted through his role in the appointment of India's next coach.
Higher the par score the smaller the chance Pakistan have of winning. Against the top-eight teams, they have won only once in the last 13 times their bowlers have conceded over 250. While a lot depends on conditions, the one force that can keep the par score down is Pakistan's bowling. In Australia, their last series again a top-eight opponent, they lost all the high-scoring games, and won only when their bowlers bowled Australia out for 220. Even then they sweated in the chase. If Pakistan are to cause an upset, their bowlers will have to do it.
Play01:43
Can India switch focus to 'just another game'?
Team news

In a rare occurrence, India have four deserving fast bowlers to choose from to fill two or three spots. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav all have legitimate claims to make the XI. The last time India faced Pakistan in an ODI, Umesh and Shami did the job, but Bhuvneshwar has a great record against them and Bumrah is a special death bowler. There will be a temptation to play all four, and Hardik Pandya as the seam allrounder.
India (possible) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9, 10 and 11 three out of R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav
Azhar Ali, who was removed as Pakistan captain recently, might struggle in the modern game, but the overcast weather forecast might call for an old-fashioned opener. Shadab Khan's legspin will be tempting, but Pakistan might go for the extra batting of Faheem Ashraf.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Azhar Ali, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Wahab Riaz/Junaid Khan, 11 Hasan Ali
Pitch and conditions

The pitches at Edgbaston are true, as seen in the match between Australia and New Zealand, but the overhead conditions matter more. The initial forecast was for showers in the morning and afternoon, but that seems to have improved.
Stats and trivia

  • In five ODIs against Pakistan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar averages 21.55 and concedes runs at 4.21 an over, compared to career numbers of 39.62 and 4.95.
  • Shoaib Malik fancies India. He averages close to 50 against them, as against a career average of 35.50. However, it has been four years since he played India, having missed the 2015 World Cup.
  • India last lost to Pakistan in an ICC event in the 2009 Champions Trophy.
  • Both these sides hold a negative record against top-eight sides since the last World Cup: India have won nine and lost 12, Pakistan have won six and lost 18.
  • India, though, have better stats against top eight sides in this period. Their batting average is better (38.9 to 31.9), their batting strike rate is better (5.89 to 5.39), and their bowling average is better (37.55 to 44.36). Only their bowling economy is marginally worse: 5.97 to 5.96.
  • Junaid Khan has bowled 22 balls to Kohli in ODIs for two runs and three wickets. All three dismissals came in the 2012-13 series in India
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