Mirpur (Dhaka), March 20: India face arch-rivals Pakistan in the tournament proper of the ICC World Twenty20 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here Friday.
The two former champions meet at the same venue for the second time in a month. The last time they had a face-off here March 2 in the Asia Cup, Pakistan clinched a last-ball thriller thanks to Shahid Afridi’s unbeaten 18-ball 34.
The Indian team has had a tough past couple of months. Losses in South Africa, New Zealand and an early exit from the Asia Cup have compounded India’s miseries. The World T20 offers the Men in Blue a chance to get back to winnning ways.
India can take heart from the fact that they have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup, be it Twenty20 or 50-over format.
But Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez has started the mind games saying that Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return to the team doesn’t make any difference. Dhoni had skipped the Asia Cup owing to injury.
Dhoni had refrained from talking to the media in the past few days to stay away from the controversies back home due to the Indian Premier League (IPL) scandal but on the eve of the match Thursday admitted that bowling is an area of concern for his team.
“Bowling is an area of concern compared to batting. Getting off to a good start is important as it will help us get 10 to 15 runs more than the par-score. Our aim will be to do well in death bowling and also bat well and we will have a good chance (in the tournament),” Dhoni said.
India most likely will field five bowlers with leggie Amit Mishra being the third spinner. Pacers Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar haven’t played much of T20 internationals but the experience in the Indian Premier League (IPL) will surely count.
What will boost the Indian team’s confidence is the return of Dhoni and the presence of Yuvraj Singh. The onus will be on Yuvraj, who has been dropped from both ODIs and Test side, to prove the selectors that he is still good enough to play at the highest level.
The opening pair remains a problem for India. While Shikhar Dhawan has been getting the runs, Rohit Sharma has hit a rough patch. Dhoni has been non-committal in sending Ajinkya Rahane up the order and said the team would adapt a wait and watch policy.
Pakistan will take confidence from Afridi pyrotechnics three weeks back here against India in Asia Cup. But Pakistan’s trump card will be off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who has given most batsmen a hard time reading his variations.
Pakistan are also experienced than India in terms of T20 format. They are the most experienced Test playing nation in T20s, having played 78 matches in comparison to India’s 46.
However, India-Pakistan matches are beyond all numbers and calculations.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma, Stuart Binny, Ajinkya Rahane.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Saaed Ajmal, Mohammad Talha, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Zulfiqar Babar, Bilawal Bhatti.