The biggest cricketing rivalry will be back in action after a long gap of 4 years. Arch-rivals and Asian cricketing giants, India and Pakistan, are all set to face each other in the Asia Cup on the evening of 2nd September. The venue for the high-octane, revenue-making spectacle will be played at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Sri Lanka.
In a highly likely scenario, both teams can clash more than once in Asia’s biggest cricketing tournament, but dark clouds of uncertainty are looming large over round one of the clash between both teams. The much-anticipated face-off could end up in a stalemate as the weather forecast has been hinting at heavy rain spells and thunderstorms throughout the day.
Sucking away all the hype and anticipation, the weather could play a spoilsport. There is almost an 85 percent chance of rain during game time. Although the play is scheduled to start at 3 PM India Time, there are chances, that the toss and first ball could be delayed in the wake of bad weather.
Pallekele has seen cloudy and gloomy weather for the last two days, with dark clouds overhead. Although there hasn’t been any rain since Thursday, the forecast for Saturday evening is quite worrisome, predicting a 90 percent chance of rain until 6 PM. This could either completely jeopardise the India-Pakistan encounter or could curtail the match time.
However, in a slight sense of relief, the heavy breeze on Saturday blew the dark clouds away from the vicinity, and locals claimed that the morning was the brightest since Wednesday. The locals added that with the heavy breeze around, there could be chances that the stadium receives only passing showers that could last only for half an hour to an hour.
In such a possibility, both the skippers would have DLS equations in mind while going for the toss. In a rain-washed game, most captains tend to choose to field first so as to get a clear picture of how well is the game poised at the halfway stage.
However, cricketing legends and past games played on this track suggest that the pitch could be on the slower side and it could get tougher for the chasing side, especially under lights. With these stark possibilities, it would be a dicey situation for skippers when they make their decision correcting calling for the coin toss.
Meanwhile, a day prior to the game, the Pakistani skipper Babar Azam announced that they would not make any changes to their winning XI against Nepal and would field an unchanged playing XI against India.
In the last match against Nepal, the Pakistan side managed a comfortable win. As per that squad, Pakistan Playing XI against India would be:
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Agha Salman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf.
On the other hand, the Indian skipper Rohit Sharma could go with 6/7 batters, 1/2 all-rounders and 2/3 pacers. India’s Probable XI could look like:
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Ishan Kishan (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur/Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
Most India vs Pakistan encounters have lived up to the expectations and have gone down to the wire. The last time both sides squared off in the 50-over ODI format was way back in the 2019 World Cup with India going past the finish line quite comfortably. The top three in that game scored big with Rohit Sharma’s fiery knock of 140 runs in 113 balls ensuring India pilled up 336/5 in its quota of 50 overs. In the rain-curtailed match, Pakistan could only muster 212/6 in its 40 overs ending up 89 runs short of the DLS par score.
Since then, both sides have played four T20I matches, in the 20-over version of the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup.
In an anti-climax, if the bad weather persists, the high-stake encounter on Pallekele could also be another shortened affair. Despite the fact that it is a game of nerves rather than match form, fitness, skills, or stats going into the game, the history of previous encounters could also play in the back of the minds of players.
Overall, in head-to-head encounters in the 50-over format, Pakistan and India have played each other 132 times. Though Pakistan has won more games with 73 wins, and India winning only 55 matches, the gap has been narrowing down in past decades.
Contrarily, in the ODI format of the Asia Cup, the Indian squad has a better track record with 7 wins out of the 13 matches played between the arch-rivals. While one game ended in no result, Pakistan has won 5 games in this Asian tournament.
The last ODI match in the Asia Cup between the two rivals was played in 2018 when the tournament was held in the UAE. During the Super 4 stage, India and Pakistan played each other in which the Indian side steamrolled their Pakistani counterparts and handed them a crushing defeat.
India comfortably won the game by nine wickets after it chased down the Pakistani total of 237 runs courtesy of a 210 runs-opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
With Nepal as the third side in the group, both India and Pakistan are certain to progress to the next stage of the tournament, but the result of this match is going to decide who finishes top of the group.