India-Pakistan clash to stir up interest in ICC Men’s World Twenty20 in Dubai
Some fourteen years ago, Asia’s arch-rivals in cricket, India and Pakistan extended their hostilities to the Twenty20 format. And since the start of the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 tournament in 2007 - the second signature competition for men’s after the 60 over format that was instituted in 1975, but subsequently revised to 50 overs a side - India has dominated the team from across the Wagha border, winning all five matches.
The clash between the two compelling sides full of many gifted players has always excited the millions of fans and also all the stakeholders of the game in both countries. The pre-match excitement is likely to send the pulse reaching as the two team’s gird up its loins in the second Super 12 match of The Twenty20 World Cup at the Dubai International Stadium here on Sunday.
The BCCI which is the host of the competition, the second time in a row (India was the venue in 2016 when the West Indies won in Kolkata beating England in the final) has taken the 16 team event to the Sultanate of Oman and to the three cricketing centres in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The Covid-19 pandemic had forced the BCCI to compete the IPL-14 phase two in these parts, and it had no option but to take the global event also to the Arabian Gulf.
There was not any palpable interest seen at the Dubai International Stadium or the nearby ICC Cricket Academy on Friday afternoon, but things are likely to hot up among the Indian and Pakistan supporters here. A substantial number with all the pandemic protocols adhered to will be in attendance at the venue tomorrow. Tickets have been made available from a low band of Rs 1500 to Rs 3000 to the highest range for a seat in VIP Suite between Rs 58,000 to Rs 3 lakh.
Sunday is a working day here, and it would be interesting to see how many fans would show up at the turnstiles. But cricket matches between India and Pakistan are rare as they come because of the absence of bilateral series between the two countries it could be a sell out in tune with capacity that will be permitted by the authorities here.
The preliminary stage of the tournament was completed on Friday with Namibia taking the last spot. The Super 12 starts with matches between South Africa and Australia at Abu Dhabi and England and the West Indies at Dubai, but attention will be riveted in the fourth match - qualifiers Sri Lanka and Bangladesh play the third match at Sharjah - teams that will be led by Virat Kohli and Babar Azam.
Kohli has played six Twenty20 matches against Pakistan, three each in India and overseas and in three World Cup matches. He has already felt the pressure of playing a match against Pakistan and is not unduly anxious about compete with them tomorrow. He has gone on record saying that he will treat it as another match and all the buzz is around the match for tickets which his friends have been asking him.
Kohli has also revealed that he has sorted out the team composition for the first three matches against Pakistan, New Zealand and Afghanistan with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul to start the proceeding and he will follow them in the batting order. The three together have batted in 232 innings from 250 matches and have scored 7580 runs with Sharma scoring four centuries and Rahul, two. These three would have a mind set to face and counter a high percentage of the 120 plus balls.
The middle order has options and one would expect Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and Ishan Kishan to take the challenge in the Super 12 stage. The bowling group initially would be Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Varun Chakravarthy with Jadeja as the fifth bowler.
But this Twenty20 World Cup is not just about Kohli and his team because Mahendra Singh Dhoni as mentor brings so much value to the team in terms of guiding the young players and also contributing to the think tank. After all he was at the helm in 2007 when India outwitted Pakistan, including the title match of the inaugural competition in South Africa.
It is said Kohli shares an excellent with Dhoni. They have already spent hours already after the IPL the final of which was played on ten days ago. Ravi Shastri is the head coach and having been part of the present set up for four years he is keen to sign off with a big win. Kohli has been part of the 2011 World Cup, but has not an ICC trophy to show for as captain. The idea of bringing in Dhoni into the equation is to calm the nerves at every team activity.
There is a long gap - seven days - between the first match against Pakistan on October 24 and the second against New Zealand on October 31. So Kohli and his team and support staff would be primed for the first match alone.
Another interesting event could be the likely inclusion of spinner Varun Chakravarty for such an important competition. The mystery spinner has taken 36 wickets in 31 matches, with 17 and 18 coming in the last two seasons. He has played three Twenty20 internationals under Shikhar Dhawan as captain and with Rahul Dravid as coach against Sri Lanka in Colombo. One would be curious to see how Kohli deploys him against Pakistan in the power play overs when Babar Azam, Mohammed Rizwan and possibly Fakhar Zaman would be in action.
Pakistan - with Mathew Hayden as batting consultant and Vernon Philander as bowling consultant - can throw up a few surprises in their approach and attitude. Azam is a class act and would be keen to make a bright start and to notch his team's first win against India in the shortest form of the game.