Cricket enthusiasts worldwide are eagerly awaiting the showdown between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in the upcoming Super 4 match of the Asia Cup, scheduled for Sunday, September 10. The first encounter on September 2 saw the two teams sharing the honors as rain played spoilsport, washing out the second innings at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy. This match once again brought to the forefront the persistent challenges facing the Indian batting order, particularly in dealing with Pakistan’s formidable pacers. Indian skipper Rohit Sharma and star batsman Virat Kohli both succumbed to the left-arm pace of Shaheen Afridi, while Haris Rauf accounted for the dismissals of Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill.
The vulnerability of the Indian batting lineup against pace is not a novel concern. It has surfaced on critical occasions, notably during the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan, the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, and most recently, the 2021 T20 World Cup encounter against Pakistan. While the Indian team has managed to secure victories despite these challenges, it remains a pressing concern for team management.
During an exclusive interview on the 1XBAT cricket show, former Zimbabwean cricketer Christopher Mpofu provided insights into the contrasting records of Indian skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli at R Premadasa Stadium. He remarked, “When it comes to individual records at R Premadasa Stadium, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have contrasting performances. Kohli has excelled at this venue, amassing an impressive 519 runs at an astonishing average of 103.80 in eight ODIs, including three centuries, with a highest score of 131.” In contrast, he noted, “Rohit Sharma has faced challenges at R Premadasa Stadium, accumulating just 196 runs in nine ODIs at an average of 24.50, with a lone century to his name. Following a lackluster performance against Nepal, Rohit will be keen to improve his record at this venue.”
Under the leadership of Babar Azam, the Pakistan cricket team has displayed remarkable form throughout the Asia Cup 2023. In the Super 4 opener, Pakistan secured a comprehensive seven-wicket victory over Bangladesh, restricting their opponents to a mere 193 runs. Pakistan’s bowlers have been exceptional, claiming 30 wickets in just three matches, with Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi, and Naseem Shah contributing to 23 of those wickets. Spinners have also played their part with six crucial wickets.
Haris Rauf currently leads the wicket-takers chart in the Asia Cup 2023 with nine scalps, while Shaheen and Naseem share the second spot with seven wickets each. Pakistan’s fast bowlers have showcased their prowess by taking nine or more wickets in an innings for the second time in five days, a feat previously accomplished against India. Such an achievement is rare in the 39-year history of the ODI Asia Cup, with Pakistan’s bowlers achieving it twice this season, reminiscent of their 2004 performance against Bangladesh.
In stark contrast, the Indian bowlers have had limited opportunities to shine, with Nepal posting a total of 230 runs against them. India’s bowlers managed to take nine wickets in their solitary match, with one dismissal due to a run-out. Indian fast bowlers have managed only six wickets thus far, with a strike rate of 28 and an economy rate of over 5. Their performance against Nepal raised questions as they conceded runs against a less formidable opponent.
As the stage is set for the India-Pakistan Super 4 clash, cricket enthusiasts across the globe are hoping for clear skies and an uninterrupted contest between two cricketing giants. While the weather remains uncertain, the enthusiasm and anticipation for this classic rivalry remain unwavering.
Sunil Yash Kalra is a Women’s Cricket Historian and the founder of Indian Sports Fans.