Asia Cup 2022 | India vs Pakistan | Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai 

Indian batting’s renaissance has arrived at a moment of reckoning. Time and effort have been meticulously spent in achieving a do-over since suffering a passive World Cup campaign – incidentally in UAE – last October.

Starting Sunday, there’s a chance of trialing it in a multi-team event for the first time. An opposition that calls UAE home, and barely loses there, should serve as a good starting point for India to gauge if this 180 degree batting transformation is likely to end their 15-year-long T20 World Cup trophy drought later this year.

In the last 10 months, India have improved their batting returns in each phase of the T20 innings, embracing the risks that come with the rewards of not playing conservatively, and now have the chance of committing to this chaos approach with a full-strength top-order.

KL Rahul and Virat Kohli return from their respective breaks, giving VVS Laxman-Rohit Sharma duo a big call to make at the first step of this campaign.

India have a 5-6-7 finishing axis of Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja while Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant have served as potent floaters, but this plan could undergo a tweak with their return to full-strength and an indicator of what the batting pecking order looks like.

For Pakistan, all concerns of rhythm and dilemma of selections are vis-a-vis their bowling. Shaheen Afridi’s ouster from the tournament due to injury has already hamstrung Pakistan against an opposition that struggled to cope with the left-hander in past encounters. Now they’re without Mohammad Wasim Jr. due to a training session injury.

Hasan Ali is back in the squad, but wasn’t originally picked following an underwhelming year with the ball, and in Shahnawaz Dahani and Naseem Shah, Pakistan have two quicks with a combined experience of 2 T20Is.

Babar Azam needs to be accurate with his left-armer-less bowling combinations, while leggie Shadab Khan too needs to hit the ground running in what will be his first T20I appearance since December 2021.

When: India vs Pakistan, Asia Cup 2022 Group A 2nd Match; 06:00 PM Local time, 07:30 PM IST

Where: Dubai International Cricket Stadium

What to expect: The impact of dew, that messes with teams that have to bowl second. India however, have trained for such an eventuality by choosing to bat first whenever possible since they last played there. In 16 T20Is after the 2021 World Cup, India have won 12 and lost just 3 in 16 games where they’ve batted first.

Head to head: In Asia Cups, India have a superior 8-5 win-loss record against Pakistan. Since 2010, India have won five of the six Asia Cup meetings between the two sides.

Team watch:

India

Injury/Unavailability: No Harshal Patel and Jasprit Bumrah in India’s squad due to injuries. No other absentees from those picked.

Tactics & match-ups: 12 of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 20 T20I wickets this year have come in the PowerPlay. It’s an ability India will hope to use against a side with such a glaring gulf in quality between the top-3 and the middle-order – an average of 42.35 and 15.59 respectively since January 2021. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have scored 1000-plus T20I runs since January 2021, and breaching that opening stand should be on top of India’s bowling agendas.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan

Pakistan

Injury/Unavailability: Mohammad Wasim Jr. suffered a side strain while bowling in a training session, ruling him out of the tournament. Hasan Ali has been brought in as a replacement.

Tactics & match-ups: In the absence of Shaheen, Babar needs to be smart with his fields in the face of a gung-ho Indian batting side. The big dimensions of the Dubai stadium should be put to use smartly, particularly in the PowerPlay overs, where India have hit 71 sixes in 37 innings since January 2021. To put the amount of risk-taking in perspective, Pakistan have hit just 30 of them (in 10 innings fewer) in this period. Based on where Rishabh Pant bats, timing the introduction of leggies Shadab and Usman Qadir will also be key.

Probable XI: Mohammad Rizwan, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah/Shahnawaz Dahani

Did You Know:

– Pakistan have lost only one of the 17 T20Is they’ve played in UAE – against Australia in 2021 T20 World Cup semifinal

– Virat Kohli has struggled for form, but boasts a fine record against Pakistan in multi-team T20I tournaments with scores of 78*, 36*, 49, 55*, 57 since T20 World Cup of 2012

What They said:

“Even if dew is a factor, we’ve played enough cricket here in the last few years to understand what we need to do as a group and as individuals as well. So I think either way we should be prepared to counter whatever is in front of us.” – Rohit Sharma

“Injuries are a part of the game and we have to accept that. We trust our young bowlers who have consistently played well. Shaheen is one of the best bowlers and his aggression is unparalleled. He is the one who leads the bowling unit. So we will surely miss him.” – Babar Azam

Squads:

India Squad: Rohit Sharma(c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant(w), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Deepak Hooda, Dinesh Karthik, Ravi Bishnoi

Pakistan Squad: Babar Azam(c), Mohammad Rizwan(w), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Haider Ali

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