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Will it truly be a ‘Clash of the Titans’?

On its website, International Cricket Council (ICC) has described the match between Pakistan and India ...

Will it truly be a ‘Clash of the Titans’?

On its website, International Cricket Council (ICC) has described the match between Pakistan and India in the World Twenty20 championship as the most intriguing in its list of six games.

“Perhaps the most high profile clash of the tournament, India and Pakistan will meet at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium in Dharamsala on March 19.

“Needless to say, the two teams carry a weight of history each time they take on each other. India is unbeaten against Pakistan in the ICC World T20, winning three of its four matches against the neighbouring country outright, and taking the other game via a bowl-out. The most famous of those wins came at the final of the inaugural World T20 when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men lifted the trophy after a nail-biting thriller in Johannesburg,” the ICC declared.

The Indians have dominated matches against Pakistan not only in World T20 but they also have an immaculate record against Pakistan in World Cup – the biggest cricket spectacle. In the last World Cup, Pakistan cricket fans gasped for the team’s first win in the absence of Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar. Tendulkar had almost always played a pivotal role in triumphs against Pakistan. But the hopes tethered to that Tendulkar-effect were also dashed into pieces!

The rivalry between the two teams has charged nations on both sides of the border. With little doubt, it could easily be said it is the biggest cricket rivalry — bigger than Ashes as many cricket pundits have said.

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has said Pakistan had crumbled under pressure while chasing target in five of the six World Cup games. “India had been lucky to win the toss on most occasions,” said Inzamam.

But Pakistan gave tough time to India in World T20 when they chased, thanks to Misbah-ul-Haq who later, paradoxically, turned out to be Pakistan’s most successful Pakistan skipper in Tests!

In the inaugural World T20, Pakistan and India met twice, first in group matches and later in the final. Both were close encounters and in both matches Misbah had almost brought Pakistan to the victory stand.

The archrivals again met in 2012 and 2014 and on both occasions, India pulled comfortable victories, recording eight-wicket and seven-wicket triumphs.

Pakistan have a very bad track record against India in both of cricket’s biggest tournaments. Pakistan have also been whitewashed in the T20 series held in friendly conditions of UAE recently. Hopes are scarce that they will perform against in-form New Zealand at their own windy backyard in the coming three-match T20 series.

Adding to it is the present scenario Team Pakistan is facing. The team has reached an uneasy agreement to include tainted Mohammad Amir in the squad. Experienced Mohammad Hafeez and ODI skipper Azhar Ali had both shown dissent over his inclusion but PCB with some persuasion and threats of disciplinary actions took both players on board.

Captain Shahid Afridi has been backing Amir all the while and believes he deserves a second chance. So there are some cracks in the team which may prove detrimental for the team in India.

Pakistan will be facing tough opposition in their Group as they have been placed with Australia, New Zealand and India. A qualifier from among Ireland, Bangladesh, Oman and the Netherlands will join the group.

Afridi has also sensed the danger of being eliminated in the first round but he reiterates Team Pakistan can make it to the semi-finals beating India on its way — in its own backyard!

Let us hope it happens and Pakistan salvages some respect against the traditional rivals in one of the two biggest tournaments. Pakistan have won World Cup and World T20 but have never beaten India on any occasion.

A victory against India may not be equal to winning the tournament but it will certainly be a historic achievement and despite losing all the games in the last quarter of a century, Pakistan cricket fans will be glued to TV sets hoping men in green to deliver this time.

Bilal Hussain

Bilal Hussain
The author may be contacted at [email protected]

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