It’s no secret that Pakistan find it difficult to hang with India when it comes to cricket matches of big importance, especially the World Cups. The Greenshirts’ big moment meltdowns have been well documented so there is no point in dwelling over that.
But as they say, every dog (no pun intended at all) has its day. Trends do not hold forever, curses do not last always and bad luck does eventually fade away. We’re not guaranteeing it in an anyway, but there are wee bit signs that Team Pakistan’s day could be this Sunday.
Below are the five reasons that could see Babar Azam become the first Pakistan captain to lead his side to a maiden T20 World Cup win over India after five failures.
1- Extensive experience of UAE conditions
Granted that Indian players just played a long leg of their Indian Premier League in the UAE, this is something Pakistan did for years and years. In fact, the Emirati desert used to be Pakistan’s home away from home until recently. But here is the bigger fun fact: Pakistan have played 36 T20Is in the UAE, of which 25 have been at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, where Sunday’s match will be played.
India, on the other hand, have not played a single T20I, not just in Dubai but all of UAE. It will be the first time they take the field as a team in a T20I match on Emirati soil. That’s got to count as advantage Pakistan.
2- Babar and Rizwan’s emergence
In Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan possess two of the best, most productive and reliable opening batsmen around. In fact, Pakistan have probably never had an opening pairing as good as them since the days of Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail.
The Babar-Rizwan pairing averages 52.10 runs and bats at a run rate of 9.16. The Indian team has had a lot of fun against Pakistan openers over the past decade but this time they’d be finding a very different sort of one and two at the start of the Greenshirts’ innings.
3- The missing Dhoni factor
In all the eight T20Is played between Pakistan and India, the latter have been led by MS Dhoni. The Indians’ 7-1 head-to-head record against their arch-nemesis in the format owe a great deal to MSD’s captaincy and his ice-cold demeanour, which won’t be a factor this time as Virat Kohli is currently in charge of the team. While Dhoni will be in the dugout this Sunday, out in the field will be Kohli, who is great himself but just doesn’t exude the same level of calmness that a match of this magnitude requires.
4- Captain Kohli under pressure
Talking about Kohli, this is perhaps the most under pressure and scrutiny than he’s ever been. This is his last assignment as the national captain and he’d want to go out on a high – something he couldn’t do under similar circumstances for his IPL franchise recently. India have never won a major trophy under him, while his own form was a bit patchy in the build-up to the World Cup. All of this must be weighing on his mind, even if he insists that people are ‘wrogn’ to think so.
Here is another angle: Kohli will be leading an Indian unit in a T20I against Pakistan for the first time this Sunday but he has been the captain in four ODIs against Pakistan. India’s record against Pakistan in the 50-over format under Kohli is an even 2-2, which, as it says, is even and isn’t advantage India.
5- Patches of dominance
Pakistan have a poor T20 record against India, and that's no secret. But that does not change the fact that it also is the format they have the best chance of beating an opponent that boasts more talent than them. The beauty of this format is that you do not have to be brilliant for the entire four hours the match would last.
A half an hour of dominance, a few good overs and a couple of boundaries can change the fate of the match. That's all Babar and co need to do. Find their patches of dominance a few minutes at a time and that's it.
The author is freelance sports writer and a die-hard fan of the Pakistan cricket team.