India vs Pakistan: One Eye on the Skies, India Look to Extend World Cup Dominance over Fierce Rivals,Manchester: It’s India – Pakistan. It’s the biggest rivalry in cricket, it’s the game where there’s no end to the hype, especially given it’s also the World Cup.
Firstly, at least a billion people are expected to be glad that the weather forecast is promising. Or let’s say not too threatening. None would be happier than the Indian team, for multiple reasons. They saw their last game being washed out, and have not played for a week. They’ll be itching to play some cricket. After all, that’s what they are here for.
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India will also be itching to play because they’d be confident of getting a full two points from the game. They’re unbeaten so far, and have five points from three matches. Their batting is in form. Their bowling is in form. They’re fielding damn well too. Pakistan have won one of their four matches, with one game washed out.
History also favours India. As everyone should be aware, they’ve never lost a World Cup game to Pakistan. Recent results in the rivalry also point to India; they’ve won six of the last seven matches against Pakistan across formats in the last five years.
Cricketing logic would point to India being favourites. But cricketing logic hardly works for India v Pakistan. Actually, any game that involves Pakistan. Unpredictable is not just a cliched adjective to describe them. That’s what they are, and that’s how they have played forever. That’s how they’ve played this World Cup too. Smashed around by West Indies. Bounce back to defeat tournament favourites England. And then a bit of both Pakistans in the game against Australia.
If cricketing logic worked, Pakistan shouldn’t have defeated India in the Champions Trophy 2017 final. They were No. 8 coming into the tournament. They nearly didn’t even qualify for the tournament. They lost the first match to India convincingly. And then… they showed the other Pakistan to the world.
Lets’s look at cricketing logic before World Cup 2019. They were whitewashed 5-0 by Australia in UAE. They were whitewashed 5-0 by England. They got rolled over by West Indies in the first game. And then they casually defeated England in the stage that mattered more. Very similar to what they did to India in the Champions Trophy.
India will be wary of that Pakistan, although there’s evidence to show that game was an aberration. India faced Pakistan twice in the Asia Cup after that, and won both convincingly.
Now to the teams. India are set to replace Shikhar Dhawan with KL Rahul at the top of the order, with Vijay Shankar set to slot in in the middle order. The overcast conditions could also tempt India to play Mohammed Shami for Kuldeep Yadav. Pakistan should sense opportunity given India’s changes at the top; Mohammad Amir in particular would be looking to do an encore of the Champions Trophy final.
Pakistan could bring back Shadab Khan for Shaheen Afridi. They would also be worried about Shoaib Malik’s insipid form, and he could make way for all-rounder Imad Wasim. Only three players from both squads – Vijay, Rahul and Mohammad Hasnain – are yet to feature in an India-Pakistan game.
This will be the first match of this World Cup in Old Trafford, Manchester. What a biggie to get going!
The positions of both sides in the points table mean it’s a more important game for Pakistan than India. If at all there is anything like that in an India-Pakistan game.
Head to head, Pakistan have never defeated India in World Cups and won all the six encounters. Check India vs Pakistan LIVE score, toss, weather updates and Match commentary
Over the past month or so we have been reminded of a different world, specifically the one from April 1986. The popularity of the show Chernobyl, a reminder of a world filled with state-sponsored lies and a belief in sanctity of the state over its citizens seems to have resonated in 2019.
Yet for the handful of cricket fans that like to play around with stats websites, that month represents another milestone. Eight days prior to the Chernobyl disaster the fate of the India-Pakistan rivalry changed — that was when Javed Miandad hit that six. The story of the Pakistan-India rivalry has two inflection points — that Miandad six and the Sehwag and Tendulkar onslaught sixteen years later. Prior to that Miandad maximum, Pakistan’s record against India in ODIs read: 7 wins, 8 losses.
Over the sixteen years between the two inflection points, Pakistan won more than double the ODIs that India won in the rivalry: 45 to 21. Since then, Pakistan have won 21 and lost 25, including the match in the 2003 World Cup. From parity to domination to a period of statistical parity that’s not really reflected in the state of the two countries – two teams who have tended in the opposite directions over the course of this century culminating in this point when India are competing at the head of the peloton and Pakistan are the stragglers trying to keep up with it.
Yet, through it all there has been one constant. A constant that was once a footnote, before it became a crutch to defend the competitiveness of the rivalry, eventually leading to it becoming a humorous take on the rivalry in 2011 and 2015, to the competing one-upmanship in hate that it seems to have garnered this time around. That constant is Pakistan’s record against India in the World Cup.
There are many ways to look at it – does it say something about the nature of the two sides, about how they deal with pressure? Is it just a statistical anomaly or does it represent something bigger? Or is it a reflection of the importance of the toss (Centurion 2003 is the only match where India won the game chasing rather than defending a score)?
Perhaps the easiest explanation is to break those wins for India down – twice (1992 and 1999) they came up against a Pakistan team going through their mid-tournament slump on the way to the final; twice (1996 and 2011) a Pakistan team missing their pace spearhead failed to deal with the pressure of a knockout game in India, conceding too many before messing up the chase against a team buoyed by their faithful cheering on; and twice (2003 and 2015) Pakistan were beaten by a far superior team.
If that explanation is the one we go to, where we compartmentalise each of those losses, then the match between the two sides at Old Trafford is likely to fall in the last of the categories: India are clearly one of the two elite sides in ODI cricket, Pakistan obviously aren’t even close – and haven’t been so since the turn of the century.
And yet, through it all, these aren’t teams particularly familiar with each other, especially when compared to their predecessors. Shoaib Malik aside, no Pakistani player in the squad has more than 11 ODIs against India. For context, that’s fewer than the number Rao Iftikhar Anjum played against the neighbours. Meanwhile, only three of the Indian team (MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli) have played more than 10 ODIs against Pakistan — which again, for context, is fewer than the number that Laxmipathy Balaji played against the arch-rivals.
And yet, even with that small sample size, the numbers are glaring for Pakistan – each of the experienced trio for India average north of 44 against Pakistan. Meanwhile, the new look Indian bowling unit has already shown their supremacy against the new age Pakistan team in the Asia Cup. That, and their overall quality is what they will hang their hat on going into this game. For Pakistan, it’s the Champions Trophy final and the consistent belief that their A game can still trouble and conquer the very best in the world. After all, Pakistan have already beaten one of the two elite teams in this tournament, why not the other,
It is a match between a team built upon a systemic revolution, one that has followed the zeitgeist and remained at the head of it; against a team that only now seems to be waking up to the fact that the world has passed them by.