DUBAI, SEPT 22,
Favourites India have no grounds for complacency as they wait to see ‘which’ Pakistan turns up in the Asia Cup in Dubai on Sunday, well aware of the unpredictable arch-rivals’ penchant for surprising not just opponents but themselves, too.
India are eyeing a place in the final after three wins in as many matches, while Pakistan will look to step up their game in the Super Four match, after a scare against Afghanistan.
India walloped Pakistan by eight wickets in the group game three days ago but if history is any indication, the Men in Blue will take their traditional rivals lightly at their own peril.
After being made to work hard by minnows Hong Kong in their tournament opener, India got their act together in the much-awaited group game against Pakistan and produced a clinical display to make short work of Sarfraz Ahmed’s team.
Chasing a small target, India were hardly tested as a half-century from skipper Rohit Sharma ensured that the team was home with as many as 21 overs to spare.
Even without their talismanic captain Virat Kohli, the Indian batting looked formidable and lived up to the billing by scoring freely on surfaces that are not really perfect for stroke-play.
Opening the innings, Rohit was at his fluent best against Pakistan and followed that up with another fine knock of 83 in the seven-wicket win over Bangladesh, more than making up for the failure against Hong Kong.
Rohit’s opener partner, Shikhar Dhawan found himself amongst the runs after a torrid time in England’s seaming conditions, scoring in all three matches, including a century against Hong Kong.
The middle-order duo of Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik will again look to grab the opportunity with both hands by making useful contributions in the big game.
Rayudu missed out against Bangladesh after making an unbeaten 31 in the group game against Pakistan.
Veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni managed to spend some time in the middle on Friday, scoring 33 off 37 balls. Then there is Kedar Jadhav, who has often proved his worth with the bat besides his bowling.
Coming back to the ODI side after more than a year, Ravindra Jadeja marked the occasion with a fine four-wicket haul against Bangladesh, and he seemed hungry for more. Pakistan will be wary of the threat posed by the left-arm spinner, who is also a handy bat lower down the order.
India will look to the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah to make the initial breakthroughs and put Pakistan on the backfoot before the spinners are introduced.
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are the two mainline spinners, but it was Kedar, who picked up the most number of wickets among the slow bowlers in the last game against Pakistan.
Pakistan will look up to their seasoned campaigner Shoaib Malik for inspiration. All-rounder Malik made 43 against India and saved his team the blushes with a crucial knock against a spirited Afghanistan Friday night.
Opener Fakhar Zaman, who made a name for himself with a match-winning hundred against India in the final of Champions Trophy last year, flopped in their first game here.
Fakhar will look to make amends and so will be the likes of batsmen Babar Azam, Sarfraz and Iman-ul-Haq.
Pakistan’s another cause of concren is the form of their strike bowler Mohammad Aamir, who has not been among the wickets in recent time.
While the left-arm pacer failed to deliver against India in the group game, he was not played against Afghanistan. The likes of Hasan Ali and Usman Khan will have to step up their game if their team is to do well.