Over the years, we have heard numerous times from Pakistani and Indian cricketers insisting that it’s “just another game”. The efforts to play down the importance of the tie to take off some pressure from the players are, while respectable, futile for the fans — and even the players themselves.
It’s not “just another game”. It’s India vs. Pakistan. It’s a contest of eternal rivals. A clash of the titans. One that evokes the familiar feeling of excitement with a splash of dread.
Pakistan will face their neighbour, India, in the one-day international (ODI) match for the Asia Cup group stages today (September 2) at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
The world’s number one side will head into the tie with a more stable line-up contrary to the ODI matches played against India in the recent past.
Pakistan have lost four out of the last five games with the latest one coming in the World Cup game of 2019 where the Indian side secured their 89-run victory via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method.
The match will be India’s opening game of the Asian championship, as the two neighbours go head-to-head in what promises to be a “high-voltage” tie.
The two sides — who have only played each other in international tournaments since 2012 because of frigid bilateral relations — have recently met four times in Twenty20 internationals over the last two years with both sides winning twice.
Both sides have seen significant changes over the last four years, however, the Indian side boasts the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, the veterans who together have played more ODIs than the entire Pakistan squad combined.
As the nations brace themselves for the clash between the rivals, let us have a look at how the sides have fared against each other in the last five ODIs (India’s won most of them), and whether we can hope things will go differently for Pakistan today.
World Cup 2019
The 2019 World Cup clash between the neighbours on June 16, 2019, in Manchester was the most anticipated group match but turned out to be rather one-sided despite being victim to frequent rains.
Sharma — who opened the innings with KL Rahul — scored a magnificent century in the first innings, taking his side to the fifth-highest total in the tie’s history. He was also given the player of the match award for his second century in the 2019 World Cup.
The Indian side went out to bat first after Pakistan won the toss, elected to field first, and posted 336-5 in their allotted 50 overs.
The Indian batters demolished the Pakistani pacers of whom Hassan Ali became the most expensive Pakistani bowler in a single World Cup match, conceding 84 runs for his nine overs.
The Pakistani batting did not get off to an ideal start after Imamul Haq was removed for a measly seven by the Indian pacer Vijay Shankar, who had replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the fifth over after Kumar tweaked his hamstring and left the field.
The best-performing Pakistani batters were Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam, with Babar walking in at 13 runs and putting up 48 off 57 balls before being dismissed by an incredible delivery from Kuldeep Yadav in the 24th over.
Fakhar was dismissed later by Yadav as Hardik Pandya removed Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik on back-to-back deliveries.
The play then was interrupted by the rain for a third time, bringing the covers back on when Pakistan were 166-6.
As play resumed, the DLS method gave the side a 40-over game, and Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim had just 30 balls to score 136 runs. The two maintained a steady run rate, but the game ultimately ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.
The Indian team won by 89 runs via the DLS method.
Asia Cup 2018: Two strikes
Prior to the World Cup, the two sides met each other twice in the 2018 edition of the Asia Cup with the Indian side coming out on top in both the games.
The first match was played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium (DSC) on Sept 19, 2018, with the Pakistani side winning the toss and electing to bat first.
Pakistan only managed to post 162 with the highest score from the green team coming from Babar (47) while the player of the match, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, took three wickets in his seven overs giving away just 15 runs.
The neighbours easily chased down the total in 29 overs for the loss of two wickets.
The pairing of Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan put up a stand of 86 runs before Sharma was dismissed in the 13 over. His partner later got out four runs short of a half-century in the 16 over. Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik then saw the game home with both of them finishing on the 31-run mark.
The highest from both teams in the game was scored by the now-captains with Babar scoring 47 runs and six 4s and Sharma getting 52 with six 4s and three 6s.
The second game for the Asia Cup was even more one-sided as the Indian openers Sharma and Dhawan both scored centuries to chase down a total of 238 in less than 40 overs.
The Super Four match was again played at the DSC on September 23 after Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first.
Fakhar and Imam opened the innings for Pakistan, whereas Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah shared the new ball for India.
Pakistani batters were undone by Indian bowling who kept an extremely tight line and length throughout the innings, forcing Pakistan to finish their inning at 237 for the loss of seven wickets.
Bumrah was the pick of the Indian bowlers, picking two wickets for just 29 runs in his 10 overs.
In the end, Pakistan finished with 237-7, with Shoaib Malik who was the top scorer for the Pakistani side with 78.
The Indian duo of Sharma and Dhawan put up a double-hundred partnership in response before Dhawan was dismissed through a runout in a mix-up.
Sharma stayed not out throughout the innings and scored 111 runs while Dhawan who was given the player of the match scored 114 runs.
India won the game by nine wickets with 63 balls remaining.
ICC Champions Trophy 2017: A loss and a BIG win
As we are trudging backwards, we are bound to come across the shimmering memory of the single greatest day in Pakistan cricket history.
The day when we won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Again, I seem to be taking a lot of liberty and (willingly) forgetting the previous achievements of our national outfit. But, it was the greatest day in our cricketing history.
The game, the opponent, the journey and the manner in which we won [the memes], were all nothing less than perfect.
As a fan, it is difficult to point out whether the match is etched in our memories or is it the highlights that we have seen over a million times.
Still, it will be difficult to find a Pakistani cricket fan who does not know what follows the sentence “in the air, gone!”.
The utmost importance of that grab by the leggie cannot be emphasised enough as it turned “Kohli! Nahi hota tujh say chase! [Kohli! You won’t be able to chase this!]” into a reality.
The green team thrashed the Indian side by 180 runs to clinch the Champions Trophy title at London’s Oval, on July 18, 2017.
The then-Indian captain, Kohli, won the toss and elected to bowl first.
The green shirts’ total was bolstered by a solid 128-run opening stand between Fakhar and Azhar Ali which set the mood for the first inning.
Fakhar, who scored his maiden ODI century in style with a four off the 31st over, was awarded player of the match.
Azhar and Hafeez both racked up half-centuries, whereas Fakhar smashed 114 off 106 deliveries, and Babar scored a solid 46 off 52.
Pandya was the top-scorer for India with 76 runs before he was run out by Hassan in the 27th over after a mix-up with partner Jadeja.
Muhammad Amir kicked off Pakistan’s bowling attack, taking three crucial early wickets — those of Sharma, Kohli and Dhawan.
Hassan Ali — who was also the player of the series — matched Amir’s three, taking the wickets of MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin and Bumrah.
The two sides met each other in the group stages of the tournament as well on June 4 with the Indian side emerging as the winner in what was another lop-sided meeting between the neighbours.
The Indian side, who were the defending champions, came out on top in Birmingham as they defeated Pakistan by 124 runs in a match marred by rain and sloppy fielding.
Pakistan ended their innings at 164/9 after 33.4 overs with injured last man Wahab Riaz unable to bat as India won with 44 balls to spare.
India had previously piled up 319 for three in 48 overs after Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss, giving their opponents a revised target of 289 owing to the DLS method.
What can you expect?
The expectations from either side have piled up even more since the high-drama T20 international that was played out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last year.
The less ODI-experienced Pakistani side has recently gone up against the Men in Blue previously in other formats of the game however the day-long format would require a lot more grit and tenacity from the home side.
The Indian side’s batting, led by Sharma, will be backed by the likes of Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav and Shubman Gill.
Hitman Rohit will try to start from where he left off in the last ODI between the sides, whereas the indomitable spirit of the ODI GOAT[arguable] — Greatest Of All Time — Kohli is ever-scary.
Suryakumar Yadav (SKY) needs to get the “T20 player” monkey off his back as the explosive batter has failed to fare well in other formats of the game.
Yadav averages 24.33 in the ODIs in his 26 games as compared to his average of 46.02 in the T20Is. However, the ability that SKY possesses with the bat cannot be discounted.
The Indian top-order batter, Gill, has performed exceptionally well in the ODIs since his debut and has the highest average of 62.47 in 27 matches of all active players.
The Indian pace attack of Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj will be a challenge upfront for the Pakistani top order.
The green team, after a really long time, have a stable top-order with Pakistan having all three of their top-order batter in the top five of ICC men’s ODI rankings for batters.
The skipper is leading the line as the No.1 ranked ODI batter in the world, a position he has held for more than two years.
The skipper has scored 158 runs in five games against the neighbours with his career-high coming in the 2019 World Cup.
Fakhar averages above 50 accumulating 207 runs in 4 games scoring 114 runs in his first game against the side.
His partner, Imam, however, has not scored more than 10 runs in a game against the neighbours, scoring 19 runs in the 3 games he appeared in. The world number 3 would definitely want to score big and emulate his uncle, the great Inzamamul Haq who has only scored fewer runs in the tie than Sachin Tendulkar himself.
Pakistan has always had ample fast bowlers at their service but only once have we had a generational southpaw, a gritty pacer with the ability to reverse swing and an express fast bowler. It seems that the time is here, again.
The pairing of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf will lead the line for Pakistan with spinners Shadab and Nawaz completing the bowling outfit. It will be interesting to see how the bowling stands up in a tie which the Men in Blue have dominated.
Both Naseem and Haris will be playing against India for the first time in the ODIs.
The match will start at 2:30pm in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka today.