KARACHI, July 1: Pakistan and India head into Wednesday’s crunch Super Four match of the ninth Asia Cup in different mindsets with the hosts still trying to find a proper combination as they battle to stay in the competition.
If they succeed against heavy odds in turning the tide their way at the National Stadium, Pakistan then will have to wait anxiously until Thursday night to find where they stand because then everything would hinge on the outcome of the Sri Lanka-India match.
Sri Lanka’s comprehensive defeat of Bangladesh on Monday propelled the defending champions into Sunday’s final. If the Sri Lankans do beat India and Pakistan win Friday’s last second-round fixture against Bangladesh, then the second finalists would be decided on net run-rate.
To achieve their objective, while counting on Sri Lanka to beat India, Pakistan must win the remaining Super Four matches by emphatic margins.
India, enjoying psychological advantage over the traditional rivals following their six-wicket victory in the first round last Thursday, just need to beat Shoaib Malik’s side again to make the final.
The Indians received a major boost on Tuesday when it was confirmed that all-rounder Irfan Pathan would be making his first appearance in the ongoing tournament after being sidelined by a side strain.
While the availability of Pathan gives India more options, Pakistan have decided to retain the unpredictable Shahid Afridi in the hope that swashbuckling all-rounder overcomes his lean trot with the bat.
His most recent significant score was 85 against Zimbabwe 13 matches ago, while the last of his four ODI centuries was made against India at Kanpur on April 15, 2005 when the distinctively explosive hitter just battered the opponents’ bowling as opener.
Pace bowler Abdur Rauf – who replaced the injured Umar Gul in the squad – and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who is set to become the 171st player to earn the ODI cap for his country, have been drafted into the playing XI at the expense of leg-spinner Mansoor Amjad and left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz.
Malik’s decision to field against Sri Lanka on Sunday not only left everyone mystified, it also backfired with disastrous consequences. Team coach Geoff Lawson’s tantrums at the post-game media conference indirectly epitomized the frustration in the Pakistan camp.
Lawson’s subsequent twice-issued apology to the media personnel has helped diffuse a potentially volatile situation, but a repeat of reversals could trigger the beginning of another unwanted crisis in Pakistan cricket.
PAKISTAN: Shoaib Malik (captain), Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Sarfraz Ahmed, Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar, Abdur Rauf, Saeed Ajmal.
INDIA (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, R.P. Singh, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.
Umpires: Tony Hill (New Zealand) and Ian Gould (England).
TV umpire; A.F.M. Akhtaruddin Shaheen (Bangladesh).
Match referee: Alan Hurst (Australia).