Asia Cup T20, Dhaka, Bangladesh
India will play arch rivals Pakistan in the first of at least two T20 matches in the next two months – far more than the number of times they have faced each other over the last two years. With tensions running high, however, it is a pleasant feeling for all cricket fans to have the opportunity to watch two mercurial cricket teams go at one another in an important tournament on the eve of another World Cup. What’s more, both teams will be fielding their full strength sides; India will be playing their second Asia Cup game after defeating hosts Bangladesh in the first.
This will be Pakistan’s first match, and perhaps captain Shahid Afridi’s penultimate tournament (he promises, maybe). He will be 36 by the time the Asia Cup ends – double the age most people think he still is, or perhaps even his birth certificate says he is. Did Afridi truly age after 18?
BATTLES TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Mohammad Amir vs. Rohit Sharma
Oh yes, Amir is back. He sinned, and he paid for it, and now he’s back to haunt batsmen across the world. And it seems like he was never gone. He has almost hit his peak stride and pace within a few months, and even looked good in the Pakistan T20 league. Rohit, meanwhile, is in the form of his life. He has been the world’s best limited overs opener over the last two years, and India’s best ODI and T20 player (with Kohli) in the same period. When India lose him early, they fail to accelerate when they have to. He has an insane ability to switch gears as he pleases – and it’ll be fascinating to see him deal with young Amir on these sluggish surfaces.
Mohammad Sami vs. Virat Kohli
That’s right. Sami is still around, and he is faster and more lethal than ever. He is enjoying a second wind of sorts after demolishing many top batsmen in the recent Pakistan T20 league – ending up as the highest wicket taker. He is Pakistan’s trump card, more than 15 years after he made his debut for them. He is almost 35, and is the polar opposite of India’s wily old quickie, Ashish Nehra. Will he trouble Virat Kohli, the best batsman in the world? Kohli rarely ever fails twice in a row, and many believe he shouldn’t have sat out during the Lanka T20 series because he had good momentum.
Wahab Riaz vs. Shikhar Dhawan
Nobody will ever forget Wahab’s famously fantastic spell against the Aussies in last year’s World Cup. He has led Pakistan’s bowling with and without the tall Mohammad Irfan, and will pose a few problems for left-handed Dhawan, who seems to be back in form after a long stretch of hits and misses. Somehow, it seems obvious who will come out on top here.
R. Ashwin vs. Mohammad Hafeez
The Nerd against The Professor. This will be a battle of wits as much as one of skill and depth. Ashwin has the help he needs from these pitches, and Hafeez is perhaps the only reliable and stable Pakistani batsman in this format.
Umar Akmal vs. Ashish Nehra
The Wunderkind versus The Veteran. Akmal, the more talented of the three brothers, will encounter a different Nehra – who has learned to have more variations than a spinner in his 4 overs. His fitness just about allows him to last through T20 games, and Nehra will be itching to have a go at Pakistan’s most dangerous finisher.
Shahid Afridi vs. Yuvraj Singh
One for the ages – both on the verge of finishing their starry careers. Yuvraj is what Afridi could have been, yet Afridi is what nobody could have been. Afridi, the bowler, still has enough up his sleeve to trouble an out-of-form, under confident Singh. Yuvraj, the bowler, chucks enough pies to lure Afridi down the wicket and make him look like a fool.