Spicy New York pitch in focus as arch rivals clash - Cricket News | Cricket Updates | Match Report


Saturday, June 8, 2024

Spicy New York pitch in focus as arch rivals clash

 India have a 6-1 record over Pakistan in the men's T20I World Cup

India have a 6-1 record over Pakistan in the men's T20I World Cup © AFP

"The pitch is much better today," Ravi Shastri told Cricbuzz after conducting the toss for the Canada vs Ireland game on Friday. He was right - the match saw a much better balanced contest between bat and ball than in the recent past. As earlier reported by this website, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is making sure the match would not be a low-scoring farce because of the dangerous nature of the surface.

For the first time ever perhaps, the pitch has garnered more attention ahead of an India-Pakistan game. Typically, the focus would be on the intense rivalry, individual match-ups, and whether Pakistan can break the Indian stranglehold in World Cups. But with Pakistan's high voltage pace battery - featuring Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf - expected to be in action on Sunday, concerns about the pitch's behavior, or misbehaviour, are heightened.

As much as the pitch, the new ball will be the focal point, with wickets falling in a heap to the shining, swinging and bouncing ball. Consequently, the PowerPlay overs will be crucial, not for the runs scored but for the wickets lost. Caution rather than bravado would be key.

Although conditions were different in the last Twenty20 World Cup game between these countries at the MCG in 2022, India found themselves at 31 for 4 in 6.1 overs - hardly an ideal start. That they still managed to win the game by chasing 160 is another story, thanks to the genius of Virat Kohli.

Going by New York's record, the batters can capitalise on the bowling once the ball gets old, making wickets in hand more important than runs scored in the first half of the innings. India couldn't have asked for a better opening pair to handle such a situation. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have the experience and skills needed to tackle the new ball challenge effectively.

But then there are these match-up situations. Rohit is known for vulnerability to left arm pacers and Pakistan have two of the best in the business - Afridi and Amir. Similarly, Kohli's history with Rauf suggests that the early overs could sway the game's outcome. With limited assistance for spin, batters can target the spinners and from an Indian perspective, Shivam Dube's ability to attack spinners cannot be overstated.

India could be better off if Dube's arrival at the crease is strategically timed to force Pakistan, who have two spinners - Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed - to alter their plan, thereby creating opportunities for other Indian batters to score runs elsewhere in the innings. Additionally, considering Kuldeep Yadav's match-winning abilities and his impressive record against Pakistan, including him in the lineup may prove beneficial.

After their loss to minnows USA, Pakistan find themselves in a cricketing rabbit hole. However, such situations are not unfamiliar to Babar Azam's team; they have a history of suffering unexpected defeats in the World Cups. They plummeted to a similar upset against Afghanistan in Chennai during the recent ODI World Cup.

Former captain Ramiz Raja urged them to unite and rise to the occasion. "That will be the biggest incentive. The New York conditions are a lottery and present Pakistan a good opportunity against a stronger side," remarked the former Pakistan captain and former board chief. While it's not ideal for conditions to dictate the outcome rather than quality of cricket dictating the result, there is nothing called ideal in an India-Pakistan contest. The end justifies every means here.

When: India vs Pakistan, June 09, 10:30 AM Local, 8 PM IST

Where: Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

What to expect: A high-octane contest with passions running high on the field and in the stands. While India - with a better batting line-up - are the favourites, but in an India-Pakistan match, reputation, form and track record has little meaning. With the pitch assisting the fast bowlers, it is unlikely to be a high-scoring game but will nevertheless be a keenly contested one.

Head to Head: India lead 6-1 in their seven T20 World Cup meetings against Pakistan. Each of the last five T20 WC games between the two have been won by chasing teams.

Team Watch


Injuries/unavailability: The Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid duo is not expected to go in for any change in the four-pronged pace attack. One change that can cross their mind is bringing in Kuldeep Yadav, who has an impressive record against Pakistan, in place of Axar Patel. But then that is a long shot.

Tactics & Matchups: Rizwan and Babar's vulnerability against left-arm spin is no secret. The duo strikes at only 116 and 107.2 against the ilk, respectively, and have lost their wickets to left-arm spinners 7 and 6 times, respectively, in all T20Is. India could be tempted to throw the new ball to Axar Patel for an over to two for an early breakthrough.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Siraj


Injuries/Unavailability: Coach Gary Kirsten, in India till recently, knows the Indian cricketers inside out and he may draw a plan on how to break the Indian hegemony over their arch-rivals. He is well known to inspire teams and Pakistan, at a low after losing to minnows US in the first game, will look to him for inspiration. Although an important member of the side, Shadab Khan's spot might be under scrutiny as there is not much assistance for the spinners in the wicket. If they are to strengthen their batting, then top order bat Saim Ayub may be an option.

Tactics & Matchups: Indian openers Rohit (SR: 121.21) and Kohli (SR: 103.10) have been dismissed 13 and 4 times, respectively, by left-arm seamers in the PowerPlays in T20Is since 2016, making their match-up against Afridi and Amir one to watch-out for.

Probable XI: Babar Azam (C), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Usman Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Azam Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan/Saim Ayub, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Amir, Haris Rauf

Did you know?

-Kohli has won four POTM awards in India vs Pakistan T20Is - the most by any player. No other players has more than one

- Mohammad Rizwan will be playing his 100th T20I

- Iftikhar Ahmed needs 7 runs to complete 1000 in the shortest format

- Haris Rauf is 4 away from completing 100 T20I wickets

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