India will face arch-rivals Pakistan in the marquee clash of the T20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday. As always, India will go into the ICC game as favourites. After all, Pakistan have never beaten India in the World Cup. Be it ODIs or T20Is, the Indians have always been triumphant in World Cup matches. India’s unbeaten streak in the 50-over version began in the 1992 edition, when the teams met for the first time in the World Cup. In T20Is, the rivalry began in the inaugural edition in 2007. Although India would be high on confidence going into the big clash, here are five players from the opposition camps India need to be wary of.
If India have Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, Pakistan have their skipper Babar Azam, who is among the best batters in the world irrespective of format. Opening the innings, Azam could pose a major threat to India if he gets going. In T20Is, one brilliant innings can be enough to change the momentum of the game. The Pakistan skipper has the ability to play that kind of an innings. He struck a brutal 122 off 59 against South Africa in Centurion earlier this year as Pakistan chased down 204. India must ensure they get rid of Azam early.
Fakhar Zaman was not part of the original 15-member squad but was drafted into the main team after modifications to the squad were made. The inclusion of Zaman in the playing XI could be used by Pakistan as a psychological ploy. The one time Pakistan has defeated India in recent times was during the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Zaman was the architect of the win with his fantastic hundred. He could reopen some old wounds since the huge defeat was a bitter pill to swallow. A number of Indian players from that final are likely to feature in the game in Dubai. The 31-year-old will be confident of putting up a good show if given an opportunity.
The Pakistan pacer is quick and nippy. He is the kind of bowler Indian batters have often struggled against in the past. If Hasan Ali gets his act right, he is capable of hurting India. The 27-year-old is gifted with the ability to pick up key wickets. He is inconsistent, which was evident from his performances in the warm-ups. He claimed 2 for 21 against Pakistan and was hammered for 52 by South Africa. Ali is often expensive but he also gets wickets because batters go after him. If India decide to attack him, they must make sure that the bargain is fruitful.
At 41, Mohammad Hafeez remains arguably Pakistan’s most reliable batter. He can anchor the innings if needed or even get the big hits out, depending on the situation. A veteran on 113 T20Is, Hafeez struck an unbeaten 99 in a T20I against New Zealand in December last year. Despite his age, he remains fit and is a swift runner. Even if India get some of the big names in the Pakistan batting line-up early, they must not relax as long as Hafeez is at the crease.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Only 21, Shaheen Shah Afridi is already being touted as the next big thing in international cricket. He bowls at an impressive pace and his height can make him an awkward customer to face if there is uneven bounce on the UAE surface during the T20 World Cup. Indians have had their issues against tall fast bowlers as they have been unable to get on top of the ball. Afridi has a very good bouncer and an equally good yorker, which he will look to utilize against India. Afridi’s tussle against Rohit, Rahul and Kohli at the start of the innings could be a clinching factor in the big game.