Growing up in the 90’s, India-Pakistan rivalry was synonymous with UAE. This was the decade when UAE was a buzzing cricketing destination and a match between the arch-rivals was the biggest draw. India then at the start of the millennium had decided that they will no longer play in the UAE, and the Asia Cup 2018 will be kind of a comeback for them after almost two decades.
The cricket relations between the two teams haven’t improved much. The Asian cricketing giants no longer meet each other regularly. Cricket matches between the neighbouring countries have now been relegated to only ICC events. The last time the two teams met was over a year ago in the Champions Trophy final where Pakistan hammered the Indian team by 180 runs to win the title.
By Giri Subramaniam (6th September, 2018)
Both the teams over the last year or so have been building towards the World Cup 2019. While Pakistan have been investing heavily in youth, India have stuck with their old guard.
The Pakistan team has identified and backed some good young cricketers. Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Khan Shinwari have all flourished under the new leadership team of Mickey Arthur and Sarfaraz Ahmed. The Pakistan bowling attack is looking stronger than ever with the experience of Mohammad Amir leading the pace attack. The batting too led by Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam has some good young players supported by the experience of Shoaib Malik and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Even though Pakistan's bowling has been brilliant over the past year or so, their batting still has a question mark. Fakhar Zaman has carried Pakistan batting for over a year now since his debut and it will be interesting to see if the rest of the batting has the firepower if they lose him early. Imam-ul-Haq and Asif Ali lack experience at this level and Haris Sohail is on a comeback trail.
Since the Champions Trophy finals in 2017, the Pakistan ODI batting has not been that dissimilar to the Indian one. The top 3 have scored heavily but the middle order has largely struggled. Fakhar Zaman with an average of 81 and SR of 98 has been the key player for Pakistan. Babar Azam has been brilliant as well with an average of 57.55 but has been striking only at 78.48. Imam-ul-Haq in his short career has scored 544 runs at an average of 68 and Strike Rate of 88. Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed average 31 and 17 respectively during that time which will be a worrying statistic for the Pakistan camp. Shadab Khan has been lower down the order but has done well averaging 48. Even though Asif Ali and Haris Sohail have done well, their sample size is too small to make a call.