The India vs Pakistan rivalry will resume on Sunday when the two Asian giants head into battle in a Group 2 clash of the Super 12 Round of the T20 World Cup 2021. The match, to be held in Dubai, will ensure one of two outcomes.
An Indian win would mean their unbeaten streak against Pakistan in World Cup matches would remain intact. A triumph for Pakistan would open a new chapter in the Indo-Pak rivalry.
On paper and current form, Virat Kohli’s men begin as favourites. They were completely dominant in their two warm-up games, outclassing England by seven wickets and Australia by eight wickets, respectively. Pakistan had mixed fortunes in their practice games, though. After an easy seven-wicket victory over a lethargic West Indies, they failed to defend 188 against South Africa.
India vs Pakistan: Three batters to watch out for
A number of talented batters from the two teams will be keen to display their skills during the India vs Pakistan T20 World Cup 2021 game on Sunday. Here’s a look at three players who could score the most runs in this marquee game:
#3 Rohit Sharma
The last time India and Pakistan met in a World Cup game, during the 50-over edition in 2019, Rohit Sharma hit a brilliant 140 off 113 in Manchester. India posted 336 for 5, and eased to victory by 89 runs (D/L) method. The team will look forward to another match-winning effort from their vice-captain.
Sharma had an underwhelming time in the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, which coincided with the Mumbai Indians’ (MI) exit from the T20 tournament before the playoffs.
He played six matches in the UAE leg of IPL 2021, but scored only 131 runs with a highest of 43. India, though, would be pleased with Rohit Sharma’s batting effort in the warm-up clash against Australia. He scored a typical 60 off 41 with the aid of five fours and three sixes.
Opening the innings, the 34-year-old will be tasked with the responsibility of giving India an assured start. Whether batting first or chasing, Sharma's performance could be crucial to the team’s fortunes because he can set the momentum of the innings. One thing is for sure - if Rohit Sharma gets going, he will dominate the Pakistan attack.
#2 Babar Azam
Pakistan captain Babar Azam will be more vital to the team’s fortunes as a batter than a leader. The team’s set-up is such that there is always chaos when it comes to captaincy, coaching and similar stuff. Hence, it was least surprising that Waqar Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq quit just before the T20 World Cup. The beauty of Pakistan cricket is that they keep producing brilliant batters like Azam despite the system and not because of it.
Ahead of the tournament, the Pakistan captain made a bold claim when he predicted that Pakistan would beat India in their T20 World Cup opener. According to him, Pakistan are better equipped with the conditions as opposed to India. The time has come for Azam to walk the talk. He is an extremely talented batter who is single-handedly capable of turning things around Pakistan's fortunes against India in World Cups.
Like Rohit Sharma, Azam will also be opening the batting for his team. The 27-year-old was impressive against West Indies in the warm-up game. His half-century guided Pakistan to a seven-wicket win. The Pakistan captain has achieved some incredible feats in T20I cricket. He clobbered 122 off 59 balls against South Africa in Centurion earlier this year. India will need to be wary of the sublimely gifted Pakistan captain.
#1 KL Rahul
Team India batter KL Rahul is in such good nick that cricket expert Aakash Chopra has predicted that he could end up as the T20 World Cup’s leading run-getter.
Rahul’s three most recent visits to the crease have seen him produce commanding performances. He clobbered 98* off 42 balls for Punjab Kings (PBKS) against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in IPL 2021, and followed that up with a blazing 51 off 24 against England in the warm-up game. Rahul’s 31-ball 39 against Australia was more subdued in comparison, but he looked fluent, nonetheless.
What makes Rahul more dangerous when playing T20Is for India is the fact that he has the freedom to take on the bowling in an unrestrained fashion. The batter is aware that even if he fails, there are others who can cover up for him. That was not the case when the 29-year-old represented PBKS. He had to constantly rein himself in knowing how vital he was to the franchise’s fortunes.
Rahul, batting with an uncluttered mind, spells danger for opposition bowlers. Over the last two seasons in the UAE, the elegant batter has scored a bucketful of runs in the IPL. The pitches here are like a second home for him.
Pakistan might need to produce something special to get rid of Rahul or hope the law of averages catches up with him. If he spends a few overs out in the middle on Sunday, Rahul could put Pakistan on the back foot.