India and Pakistan seldom cross paths on the cricket field, but when they do, describing it as a high-voltage match barely captures the intensity. Emotions surge, stadium tickets become a rare commodity, vendors cash in, TV screens can’t handle the excitement, and the result of the game often eclipses everything else. In this India vs Pakistan Asia Cup, there are potentially three such epic encounters, beginning with the one scheduled for Saturday (September 2) in Pallekele.
The opening round of this heavyweight clash might end up as a draw, judging by the weather forecast indicating continuous rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. The last encounter between these two teams in a One Day International (ODI) was during the 2019 World Cup. Since then, they’ve squared off in four Twenty20 International (T20I) matches, participating in the 20-over format of the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup. The upcoming weekend game might also be shortened if the weather permits any play at all.
India enters the competition with a fully-equipped team for the first time in several months. They underwent a rigorous training camp in Alur, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, and their head coach, Rahul Dravid, has expressed confidence in the squad. Notably, players like Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah have made their return to the setup. However, India will be cautious about the potential impact of their limited recent game time and will aim to hit top form right from the start. Given the scarcity of sufficient ODIs in the run-up to the World Cup, the playing time for all squad members is expected to be as crucial as the matches themselves.
Pakistan made a confident start to their Asia Cup campaign, powered by centuries from Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed, as well as a precise bowling performance that led them to a significant victory. With a squad of fit and in-form players, they have already stamped their authority in these conditions. However, there were a few areas of concern. Fakhar Zaman continued to struggle at the top of the order, and the Pakistani batting line-up faced significant resistance from Nepal for much of the game, relying on Babar and Iftikhar to secure a substantial total. Shaheen Afridi, despite picking up a couple of wickets, seemed a bit off his rhythm, and he also required some attention near the boundary, a situation Pakistan hopes does not develop into a serious issue.