Pakistan v India: Clash of the titans as fiercest of rivals meet again

Cricket’s most watched rivalry returns tonight in a match that promises everything. Few contests in any sport demand the attention that India-Pakistan encounters do. It is a rivalry laced with the richest of sporting history between two cricket-mad nations that have produced some of the game’s most iconic players and moments.

Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akhtar and Shoaib Akhtar. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Babar Azam and Virat Kohli.

The history they share of course added another brilliant chapter in the first-ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup when they clashed in the final, which India won. Just two years later Pakistan got their hands on the trophy to erase whatever scars existed from the 2007 defeat. Neither side has won it since but not for a want of trying.

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From Joginder Sharma’s clutch final over in the 2007 decider to Kohli’s masterclass in the group stage in 2016, and Mohammad Amir’s scintillating spell in the Champions Trophy 2017 Final, matches between India and Pakistan have regularly produced cricket of the highest calibre. Expect that trend to continue on tonight when Kohli and Azam’s teams clash at Dubai.

Moving away from their rivalry, at its core this is a match that brings some of the game’s most exciting players onto the same field.

Kohli vs Azam is a battle of captains, a battle of cover drives, a battle of two men who have unrelenting pursued excellence. Kohli boasts the most runs in men’s T20I history (3159) at the best average (52.65) of any player the format has seen. Babar is making up ground quickly on the run tally (2204) and has the third-best average (46.89) in the format. His opening partner, Mohammad Rizwan, sits second for average at 48.40. They are all consistency personified in a format not known for it. Throw in the likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Mohammad Hafeez and you’re looking at two batting orders capable of scoring in any conditions.

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Both teams feature classy quicks in the shape of Jasprit Bumrah, Shaheen Afridi and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and a vast array of spinners on the bowling front.

These are two teams evenly matched in every facet and both will be fully aware of how damaging a loss would be to their trophy ambitions.

Fixture details

The match: India v Pakistan
Time: 17:00 PKT, Sunday 24 October, 2021
Venue: Dubai International Stadium, Dubai

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Key Players

Babar Azam

Leading his side in an ICC event for the first time and playing at the T20I World Cup for the first time, Azam goes into this match firmly established as one of the format’s best batters. Averaging 46.89 across 61 T20Is, Azam has raced passed 2000 T20I runs in the blink of an eye and shows no signs of stopping. Tonight’s encounter will be his first ever T20I against India and he will be keen to show the old rivals why he is so hyped.

Virat Kohli

While Azam is making his tournament debut, Kohli has owned this tournament. The Player of the Tournament in 2014 and 2016,  Kohli averages 86.33 in T20 World Cup cricket. Across 16 innings at the event, he has passed fifty nine times. Two of those fifties have come against Pakistan, who have never got him out. You suspect they’ll have to end that unbeaten run if they are going to thwart India tonight.

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The Teams

There are two major questions for India to answer and they both surround their attack: Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin or Varun Chakravarthy?

Given he was given the chance to play both warm-ups, Kumar looks likely to play ahead of Shami but it’s anyone’s guess which was India go with their specialist spinner.

India possible XI: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Varun Chakravarthy/Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

Pakistan confirmed a 12-man squad on match eve.

Pakistan possible XI: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez/Haider Ali, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi

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