Asia Cup 2018: India and Pakistan lock horns again in UAE
Rohit Sharma ready to lead from the front
Dubai - One thing that both the teams must be worried about on the eve of the match will be their fielding.
By Sunil K. Vaidya
Published: Sun 23 Sep 2018, 9:22 PM
The nerves, rather the lack of it, have had teams, including Pakistan, end up on losing side in this Asia Cup so far. Pakistan, somewhat, redeemed themselves after veteran Shoaib Malik stayed calm to defeat nervy Afghanistan. Now, the Champions Trophy winners will once again take on arch rivals India, who are riding high with an unbeaten record in the six-team tournament.
Much was expected when Pakistan took on India at 'home away from home' last Wednesday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The contest, however, turned out to be a damp squib as nervous young Pakistani players failed to win the psychological war with the Men in Blue.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur had admitted after the first defeat here that players like Imam-ul-Haq had played out of their roles due to nervousness of playing an Indo-Pak contest first the first time.
And, Imam believes that Pakistan will be a different team the second time. "We will carry the winning momentum from our victory over Afghanistan when we meet India again on Sunday," he said after anchoring the Pakistan innings with a 104-ball 80 against Afghanistan on Friday at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
India, however, are cock-a-hoop after a hat trick of wins. While at times the other five teams have looked shaky and anxious under pressure, the Indians have managed to tackle it calmly, especially in the first game when Hong Kong's opening pair put on 174 while chasing India's total of 285.
For India, bowlers - both seamers and spinners - have delivered well by taking a total of 27 wickets in three games and their top three batsmen have collectively posted 475 runs.
The worry, if any, for India would be what if the top three catch up with the law of averages and fail to score on Sunday against Pakistan in the second match of the tournament. And, that happened last year when the two teams clashed for the Champions Trophy title. India lost top three batsmen, including Virat Kohli, for 33 and failed to recover to chase down Pakistan's imposing total (338).
That initial damage was caused by Mohammed Amir, who is dreadfully out of form, forcing team management to drop him in the first Super Four match against Afghanistan on Friday. Pakistan's bowling pick for the tournament is slightly askew with only two regular spinners in Shadab Khan and Mohamed Nawaz. They had to call on Shoaib Malik and Haris Sohail to bowl against Afghanistan but the two could hardly be called potent threat against a formidable Indian batting.
Their own batting is a bigger worry for Pakistan with Fakhar Zaman struggling to get runs. He came into this tournament with a big reputation that he first established by scoring a match-winning century in Champions Trophy final against India. Here, however, he has managed only one score of 24 against Hong Kong while not bothering scorers in the two other matches against India and Afghanistan respectively. Will the southpaw come good on Sunday, will have to wait and watch.
One thing that both the teams must be worried about on the eve of the match will be their fielding. India were lucky that five dropped catches didn't cost them their first match in the tournament against Pakistan, who were also lucky that despite five spilled chances they won a photo finish against Afghanistan on Friday. Pakistan's debutant fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi was unfortunate that out of five three were off his bowling and two he dropped.
The mantra given by respective coaches to Indian and Pakistan teams for Sunday encounter would be to hold on to catches to keep your nerves calm to win.