All roads will lead to the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium tomorrow (Saturday, September 02) for India vs Pakistan as the arch-rivals renew their rivalry in yet another chapter of the Asia Cup.
Both sides have locked horns plenty of times in the past two years, however all of those encounters were T20Is. This will be the first India vs Pakistan ODI match-up since the 2019 World Cup, and both sides will be looking to gain early bragging rights ahead of their marquee clash at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 in just over six weeks time.
A lot has changed for both sides since the last India vs Pakistan fixture, which India won comfortably by 89 runs. Virat Kohli is no longer the captain of India while Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan's skipper in that tournament, is not even in the scheme of things.
Under Babar Azam, Pakistan has grown as a ODI unit in the past 2-3 years. They are currently the No.1 ranked ODI side in the world, and that's built on their consistent top-3 and a world-class fast bowling-unit, which includes the ever-improving Naseem Shah and new-ball specialist, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Pakistan also boast decent batting depth, with leg-spinner Shadab Khan and the likes of Shaheen Afridi who have the ability to play handy cameos at the back-end, but their middle-order is yet to be tested.
Yes, Iftikhar Ahmad and Mohammad Rizwan have given a good account of themselves in the recent fixtures against Afghanistan and Nepal, but it remains to be seen if they can continue the same against a top notch attack.
As for Team India, the 7-time champions have been bolstered with the addition of champion pacer Jasprit Bumrah and proven middle-order batter, Shreyas Iyer, but they will be missing their first-choice keeper-batsman and one of the best No.5 in the current era in KL Rahul for at least the first couple of games.
This means that Ishan Kishan will take up Rahul's spot in the playing XI. Kishan's best bet to succeed is at the top of the order, but with India's impregnable top-3, he will likely bat at the No.5 spot.
The team-combination will depend on the weather. Considering the fact that a lot of rain is predicted in the lead-up and on match-day, the management might be tempted to play both Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami or include seam-bowling all-rounder in the form of Shardul Thakur.
India have dominated Pakistan in ODI cricket in the past decade, winning 7 out of the 10 encounters. Can they continue their stellar run against a vastly-improved Pakistan side this time around?
Event: India vs Pakistan, Group A, Asia Cup 2023
Date: September 02, 2023
Venue: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele
Timing: 03:00 PM IST
India vs Pakistan: Pitch & Weather Report:
Unfortunately, the weather forecast for match-day is not looking promising, with the chances of thunderstorms being as high as 90%. We could indeed be in for a shorter game, which will likely affect the possible combinations of both sides.
As far as the pitch is concerned, the weather could play a huge role in how it could behave. In the previous ODI at this venue, the Sri Lankan bowlers made merry on what turned to be a tacky surface.
India vs Pakistan: Head-to-Head In Asia Cup ODIs
Total Matches: 13
Won by India: 7
Won by Pakistan: 5
India vs Pakistan: Predicted Playing XIs
Rohit Sharma ©, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (WK), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur/Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-Ul-Haq, Babar Azam ©, Mohammad Rizwan (WK), Salman Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf
India vs Pakistan: Stats & Trivia
The mainstays of India's batting, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have been prolific scorers against Pakistan in this format. While Rohit has scored 720 runs @ 51.42, King Kohli has amassed 536 @ 48.72.
Rohit Sharma has scored a hundred in each of his past ODI meetings with the Pakistani bowlers, including a majestic 140 at Old Trafford in the 2019 World Cup.
The current No.1 ranked ODI batter, Babar Azam has an underwhelming record against India in this format thus far. In 5 matches, he has managed just 158 runs @ 31.60 apiece.
Kuldeep Yadav vs Babar Azam will be a crucial match-up in this IND vs PAK fixture. The left-arm wrist-spinner knocked over Azam in each of their past two meetings. Overall, Kuldeep has conceded just 18 runs against Babar (off 34 deliveries) while dismissing him twice.
Mohammed Siraj has been the spearhead for India in this format since his debut in 2021. Since then, he has taken 43 wickets in 23 innings @ 18.95. He is the leading wicket-taker in the world in power plays since the start of 2022 (23).
Shaheen Afridi vs the Indian openers will again be a crucial match-up given the left-arm seamers' ability to move the ball both ways and at high pace in the powerplay.
Similarly, Jasprit Bumrah vs the two left-handed Pakistani openers will be another delicious battle to watch out for, especially Bumrah v Fakhar.
Pakistan have lost 4 out of their past 5 ODI encounters against India. Their last victory over the Men in Blue came in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Since then, they have lost three in a row- including twice during the 2018 edition of the Asia Cup.