The Pakistan versus India clashes at ICC events have a newfound flavor to them after the Babar Azam-led side beat the Men in Blue for the first time in a World Cup match, last year in Dubai.
The setting was the 2021 T20 World Cup, which Australia won eventually, but the 10-wicket win brought hope for the Pakistan cricket fans that India, in World Cups and even in any other tournament, are not unbeatable when facing Babar’s charges.
For the Indian fans, apart from the misery of losing the bragging rights, the contest has become more meaningful now since they know their team won’t just runaway with a victory whenever they face Pakistan. They will have to work for it. And most importantly, they’ll get to see new heroes emerge as a Pakistan-India match is test of both physical and mental strength.
However, there is an added factor in the Sunday contest between Pakistan and India – the high chance of rain, which may ruin the most-awaited clash of the 2022 T20 World Cup.
There is an 80 per cent chance of rain in Melbourne on Sunday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, and most of it is expected in the evening. The Pakistan-India match is scheduled to start at seven in the evening Australian time, but the locals of Melbourne are saying that the weather is unpredictable in the city and there may not be even a single drop of rain on Sunday.
For a completed match to happen, each side will have to bat and bowl for five overs minimum to take the all-important points at the start of their group stage in the Super 12 round.
Other factors that the ICC will be looking at is that they’ve sold nearly 100,000 tickets of the contest. If less than 10 overs are bowled in the match due to rain, then the fans will be eligible for a full refund, which means the organisers will have to pay nearly $7 million back.
Pakistan and India clash only in ICC events now due to the hot political climate between the two countries, but they recently appeared in the Asian Cricket Council-backed Asia Cup too, in the UAE, where both won one match each.
If recent past is any evidence, Pakistan will be relying heavily again on their star openers Babar and Mohammad Rizwan to take the game away from India, be it in chasing or while setting a target.
However, it may not be a surprise if a hard-hitter in the middle-order takes the lead against India on Sunday.
Pakistan middle-order has been in shambles since the last T20 World Cup, however, in the tri-series in New Zealand, they showed some hope by finishing the final for Pakistan.
If one match-winner is to be named, then the clear favourite will be all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz. Pakistan took a risk with him at the number four position in the Asia Cup Super Four match, and it paid dividends as he guided the Men in Green home. Even with the ball, he is no easy operator to bat against.
Thus, the two-edged sword, Nawaz will prove to be the game changer for Pakistan against India, and most probably throughout the T20 World Cup.
For India, opinion is divided whether all-rounder Hardik Pandya or 360-degree batter Suryakumar Yadav will prove to be the X-factor, but a combined consensus still lies with one batting star for the ages, Virat Kohli.
He has rediscovered his form all thanks to a century in the Asia Cup and later some valuable runs in the middle-order and he will once again be the center of focus when India take on Pakistan.
Other Indian opponents will also be on the lookout to get him out quickly, because when Kohli gets going, only he himself can stop the carnage he does with the bat.