India-Pakistan clashes always create a lot of buzz among cricket fanatics and it is no different this time as the high-octane encounter is once again ready to enthrall fans, this time during the World Cup at the Adelaide Oval here Sunday.
For many, the outcome of the World Cup doesn’t even matter as a victory in this match is as good as winning the title. The organisers have said that the tickets of the 50,000 capacity stadium were sold out within minutes after they went on sale.
The Group B fixture once again raises the question of whether Pakistan will be able to break the jinx and defeat their neighbours in the sport’s showpiece event.
While Pakistan have a better One-Day International (ODI) record against India, they have never been able to defeat their traditional rivals in all five Cup contests till date, the last of which came four years ago in the semi-final at Mohali. However, Pakistan would want to straighten the record in the Cup opener for both sides.
The 1992 champions are not the favourites and neither do they have many stars in their line-up. To add to their troubles, a couple of their top players have been ruled out of the tournament. Nevertheless, their traditional unpredictability remains their biggest strength, something which has always aided them in the past.
The withdrawals of all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez and left-arm pacer Junaid Khan have come as a severe blow. Then ace spinner Saeed Ajmal was also not selected in the squad after the International Cricket Council (ICC) ruled his action illegal. However, his action has been cleared recently.
But Pakistan’s fast bowling has been their traditional strength. The seven-foot-tall Mohammed Irfan and proven match-winner Wahab Riaz, both left-armers, will lead their pace attack.
Veteran Shahid Afridi is one of the key players who has to perform if Pakistan want to have a chance against India. His stinging spin bowling backed by his ‘boom, boom’ batting always makes him a ready-made match-winner.
On the other hand, India have had a poor tour of Australia which has shaken the belief of many that the World No.2 side will be able to retain cricket’s most eminent title.
Though the defending champions did not fare well in their tour Down Under, several cricket pundits have regularly said that come-what-may, in today’s date, India are a top ODI side.
However, India’s bowling is in more than a spot of bother. With pace spearhead Ishant Sharma out of the tournament with an ankle injury and a big question mark over the fitness of swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the fast bowling department is not looking good.
In the present circumstances, Mohammed Shami could prove to be the key fast bowler, considering the inexperience of Mohit Sharma and medium pacer Stuart Binny.
When it comes to spin bowling, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are proven match-winners but how much the conditions in Australia will suit the tweakers is another question.
Keeping that in mind, if India want to continue their winning streak against Pakistan, their traditional strength — batting — has to click.
On paper, India boast one of the strongest batting line-ups. With four Indians — Virat Kohli (No.3), Shikhar Dhawan (No.7), Dhoni (No.9) and Rohit Sharma (No.13) — in ICC’s top-20 ODI batsman rankings, India can certainly give any team in the world a run for their money.
In Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina, the team has a reliable middle-order and Ashwin, Jadeja and Binny are more than capable batsmen down the order.
Both teams have had a poor run coming in to the World Cup and will definitely try to win and gain momentum before taking on the other big teams. Irrespective of the outcome, the match promises to be a thriller as always and the rivalry will continue to be one of the most watched events of the World Cup.