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India vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup 2021: 3 player battles to watch out for

India and Pakistan players after the 2019 World Cup clash. Pic: Getty Images
India and Pakistan players after the 2019 World Cup clash. Pic: Getty Images
Renin Wilben Albert
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India will take on arch-rivals Pakistan in match number 16 of the T20 World Cup 2021 at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday. The much-hyped encounter will be the first Group 2 clash in the Super 12 round of the event.

Sunday’s match will be the sixth time India and Pakistan will go face to face in the T20 World Cup. Just like the 50-over format, India have an unblemished record against their neighbours in the T20 version as well, having won all their previous encounters in the ICC event.

On current form as well, India hold the edge over Pakistan. Virat Kohli’s men clinched both their warm-up matches comprehensively. After defeating England by seven wickets, they crushed Australia without much trouble. Pakistan, meanwhile, registered an easy win over West Indies, but faltered against the South African challenge.


T20 World Cup 2021, India vs Pakistan: Key match-ups

With India and Pakistan all set to lock horns in Dubai on Sunday, here's a look at three player battles to watch out for.


#1 Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi

Rohit Sharma and Shaheen Afridi. Pics: Getty Images
Rohit Sharma and Shaheen Afridi. Pics: Getty Images

Rohit Sharma will be pivotal for India’s chances against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup 2021 game. If he gets the team off to a flyer, it will immediately put the opposition on the back foot. The last time India met Pakistan in a World Cup clash, in 2019, the opener registered a superb hundred to lead the side to a comprehensive win.

Sharma had a lean run in the UAE leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 for Mumbai Indians (MI). In six matches, he scored 131 runs, with a highest score of 43. It wasn’t surprising that MI did not make the playoffs. The opener, though, found some rhythm in the warm-up clash against Australia, smashing 60 off 41.

Rohit Sharma has scored the most runs in a winning cause in T20 internationals 🤩🔥🇮🇳#India #Pakistan #NewZealand #T20Icricket https://t.co/eb5A7NNJ7w

At the start of the innings, Rohit Sharma will be up against tall Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi. The Indian white-ball vice-captain has had his share of struggles against left-arm seamers in the past.

Mohammad Amir and Trent Boult have troubled him, getting the ball to dart in from over the wicket. Sharma is a much-improved all-round batter than he was a few years back. Nevertheless, Afridi could attempt to reopen the Indian batter’s old wounds.


#2 Jasprit Bumrah vs Fakhar Zaman

Jasprit Bumrah and Fakhar Zaman. Pic: Getty Images
Jasprit Bumrah and Fakhar Zaman. Pic: Getty Images

There is some unfinished business here as far as Jasprit Bumrah is concerned. Their tussle dates back to the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Bumrah had dismissed Fakhar Zaman early in the contest with a beautiful delivery, but replays showed the bowler had overstepped. Making full use of his luck, Zaman smashed a hundred, and led Pakistan to a famous win.

Even when the two came up against each other in the 2019 World Cup, the Pakistan left-hander looked in no trouble against Bumrah. On that occasion though, India won the match with ease on the back of a Rohit Sharma hundred.

Initially not a part of the 15-member squad, Zaman was later drafted in. Having impressed in both warm-up games, with scores of 46* and 52, the 31-year-old is set to find a place in the playing XI against India. He will be looking forward to playing another impactful knock.

Bumrah may not admit it openly, but deep inside he could be desperate to win the battle against Zaman on Sunday. Personal clashes add a different dynamic to the equation, and act as a stimulus for players to raise their game. This is all the more reason to watch out for the Bumrah vs Zaman clash on Sunday. It could be a fascinating contest within a contest.


#3 Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan

Shadab Khan and Virat Kohli. Pics: Getty Images
Shadab Khan and Virat Kohli. Pics: Getty Images

If the Indian think tank is brutally honest, they would admit that captain Virat Kohli’s inability to keep the momentum going in his innings is a worry.

It was pretty much evident during the second half of the IPL in the UAE, where Kohli failed to accelerate once the powerplay ended. He faced similar struggles during his knock in the warm-up encounter as well. Of course, the Indian camp wouldn’t make an honest confession openly. Why would they want to boost Pakistan’s confidence ahead of the mega clash?

The fact of the matter, though, is that Kohli has struggled in the middle overs, and has been unable to strike the big hits. Unlike in the 50-over format, where batters can take their time, teams cannot afford to slack in the T20 version, else the game can change in a matter of minutes. Kohli saw the same from close quarters when Yuvraj Singh uncharacteristically struggled to get going in the 2014 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka.

Kohli has had issues with slow bowlers in the UAE. He looked like a sitting duck against Sunil Narine in the IPL 2021 Eliminator, and eventually perished going for a slog. Pakistan would have observed the Indian captain’s struggles, and would look to throw some spin challenge in the form of Shadab Khan.

Of course, the Pakistan leg-spinner is nowhere near the league of a Sunil Narine or an Adil Rashid. Khan, in fact, went wicketless in both the team’s warm-up games.

Here are the T20I stats of Virat Kohli and Babar Azam respectively 🙌Both the captains will be facing each other in the much-awaited 🇮🇳 v 🇵🇰 battle at the T20 World Cup 2021 🤩Who will win the thrilling encounter? 🤔#T20WorldCup #India #Pakistan https://t.co/wjPT11SXrh

At the same time, the 23-year-old has a decent record in T20Is. He has claimed 58 wickets in 53 games at an economy rate of 7.4. If Khan manages to keep things tight and frustrate Kohli, he might end up inducing a false shot from the Indian captain.


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Edited by Bhargav
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