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CT17 Final: India v Pakistan - Preview

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India_Pakistan_CricketThe India-Pakistan rivalry is unmatched by any other sporting rivalry for the sheer amount of controversy and passion that is evoked by fans from either side of the border.

Given the not-so-friendly relations between the two countries on the political front and divided by a historical tragedy that rocked millions of civilians, cricket has become a vehicle of pride for the two countries. And they are about to square up yet another time in what hopefully turns out to be an exciting clash between the perennial rivals.

Now, let’s have a look at what may be the deciding factors in the match.

INDIA

Strengths :

1. A brilliant top order

The top order of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have revelled in the English conditions. Contrary to popular opinion, the two Delhi lads have superseded expectations and have had phenomenal tournaments with the former even leading the run-scorer’s charts with 317 runs from 4 innings. As a matter of fact, Rohit is second on that list and is just 13 runs behind the maverick shot maker. And with Kohli also making the top 5 run getters list for the tournament, you know where the bulk of the runs are coming from.

2. A balanced bowling attack

For most parts, India’s bowlers have come under severe scrutiny for their variety, rather, a lack of it. This time around, the bowling seems to be in good hands with the likes of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and a fourth bowler in the form of Hardik Pandya providing a good pace attack. Combined with what is widely considered to be the best spin partnership in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and a few part timers in Yuvraj Singh and Kedar Jadhav, this attack looks threatening even for the best of batsmen.

3. Plying in the death overs

It’s probably safe to assume that MS Dhoni is one of the best finishers around and that Virat Kohli is one of the best batsman there. Coupled with big hitters such as Yuvraj, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, the long handle in the final overs has been put to good use by the Indians. And when it comes to the bowling, Bhuvi and Bumrah are slowly becoming one of the very best in the death with their array of change ups- the slower ball, the bouncer and the toe crushing Yorkers! Yikes

Lastly, unlike their opponents, this Indian team has the experience playing in the big stage with appearances in the semis of the last two ICC tournaments and even going as far as winning the previous two. This team knows to win and that’s crucial.

Weaknesses :

1. Over dependence on the top order

We’ve all seen the masterly nature by which the top 3 have been dispatching the opposition bowlers and that has been a sight to behold. But, everything isn’t rosy. The middle order has seldom contributed to this tournament with the likes of Yuvraj, Jadhav, Dhoni and Pandya accumulating a total of just 200 runs while the rest three have scored over 870 runs. The disparity in scoring is clearly seen and that’s a worrying sign for if there is a top order collapse, there will be some questions to answer for the middle order.

2. Failure of the spinners

In the 53 overs that the two spinners Ashwin and Jadeja (discounting Jadhav) have bowled during the course of this tournament, they have taken just 5 wickets. That’s not even one wicket in the ten overs that they’ve bowled. Leave alone troubling the batsmen, Ashwin has seldom even spun the ball nor contained him. Yes, the conditions aren’t most suited for the bowlers but adapting to conditions is the need of the hour and it is imperative that the two spinners find a way to trouble the batsmen and that needs to happen soon.

I’d like to add two more things but I am doing so separately because they do not count as weaknesses. Firstly, Hardik Pandya is a gamechanger be it with bat or ball. On his day, his actions can swing the game in the team’s favour but it can also go out of hand in equal proportions. His bowling is the kind when on certain days, he is unplayable but on most others, he is pedestrian and becomes easy pickings for the opposition. Therefore, his bowling. Secondly, India must not make the mistake of overriding Pakistan as their opponents are quite possibly the most unpredictable team in world cricket and I’m sure the Englishmen would vouch for that statement.

PAKISTAN

Strengths :

1. The success of the openers

For a long time, the opening partnership has been a concern for the Pakistanis. With Salman Butt’s ugly exit, the onus has fallen to Azhar Ali and the lad hasn’t disappointed. A solid defence coupled with immaculate stroke play aided by his long innings’ he has played in the longer formats of the game, Azhar is a top-notch batsman. Opening the batting alongside him is the newbie Fakhar Zaman. Fear of facing the big guns in world cricket has clearly not affected the diminutive left hander as he cuts and pulls with much ease. He is clearly not afraid of playing the shots and going for the boundaries. Their big test is still yet to come as the Indians are waiting to pounce on them and once the acid test is done, we’d know their true nature.

2. The fast bowling

Fast bowling has always been the biggest strength for the team in green and it is no different this time. With Hassan Ali leading the charts for the most wickets taken and the likes of Mohammed Amir and Junaid Khan supporting him amicably, the fast bowling looks to be in good hands. With a history in producing great fast bowlers, it is no surprise that in yet another crucial encounter with their neighbours, their fast bowling is Pakistan’s best chance to peg the progress of the Indians.

This team is filled with young talents and that has paved way for a fearless brand of cricket which has brought out the best in them. The likes of Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman have not thought twice while facing some of the best there is in the world and this has allowed them to traverse on a dream run which only they could possibly achieve. Also, although this team has a lot of new players, they’ve showed immense resilience. After a pounding, they faced against the Indians, they exhibited a much more mature response against the Sri Lankans albeit it was after a collapse which only they could do.

Weaknesses :

1. Consistency with the bat

Consistency and Pakistan never go hand in hand. More so when it comes to batting. Other than their openers and to an extent, Sarfaraz Ahmed, the batsmen have seldom shown any form of consistent stroke making. It’s time that the senior pros like Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik bring on their A game for the both of them haven’t shown a glimpse of what they’re capable of. 8 years ago, when Pakistan last played an ICC organised final, the aforementioned two played a crucial part in their team’s victory and it is imperative that the two perform in order for Pakistan to even have a glimmer of hope.

2. Lack of Experience

Pakistan have rarely progressed to the latter parts of tournaments over the course of the past decade with the 2011 World Cup an exception. With the likes of Misbah Ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi no more amongst their ranks, this team is filled with players who have probably never played a final leave alone one at Lords. This has both positives and negatives but with millions watching over your shoulder and expecting you to win, experience on the big stage helps and that’s one area where Pakistan are far behind compared to India.

Pakistan are the giant killers of World Cricket. Unlike most teams, we can’t predict which team comes out- the one that played against India or the one that played against England and that is what makes them so dangerous. Their sheer unpredictability makes their supporters love them and hate them in equal measure but one thing is certain- when the teams line up on Sunday at the Mecca of Cricket, the Indian fans will have a run for their money from their counterparts and let’s hope that the competition remains stiff even on the 22 yards.

 

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