India-Pakistan blockbuster set to light up T20 World Cup
October 24 2021 12:09 AM
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Babar Azam, Virat Kohli T20
Babar Azam (right) and Virat Kohli.

AFP/ Dubai

• Pakistan is a strong team: Kohli

India skipper Virat Kohli yesterday said they will take on a “very strong” Pakistan team in their Twenty20 World Cup opener and downplayed their unbeaten record against their opponents.
India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups.
“We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the much-anticipated clash in Dubai today.
“These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.”
Kohli said regardless of their past dominance Pakistan is and always has been packed with talented players.
“Pakistan, according to me is a very strong team and always has been a strong side,” he said.
“You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.”
Babar Azam’s Pakistan will look to break their World Cup jinx against India, who have won all five clashes in T20’s showpiece event.
Babar, Mohamed Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the team’s batting key while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack.
Kohli backed his team’s match winners including Hardik Pandya to come good in the tournament despite the all-rounder struggling with his bowling.
“He is getting better in terms of getting prepared to bowl two overs for us,” said Kohli.
“What he brings at that number six spot is something that you cannot create overnight and hence I was always in favour of backing him in Australia as a batter purely.
“He can take the game away from the opposition when he is in full flow.”
Pandya emerged as India’s top all-rounder after his white-ball debut in 2016 but a spate of back injuries affected his career and he underwent back surgery two years ago.
The pace bowler did not bowl in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates for his side Mumbai Indians. But Kohli says the attacking batsman is an asset to the team in the shortest format.
“We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,” said Kohli.
“In world cricket if you look around there are specialists who do that job and it is very important to have that guy specially in T20 cricket.
“He is motivated and keen to start giving us a couple of overs and when that happens obviously the balance becomes even better.
“But we are pretty confident how we are heading into the start of this tournament.”
The tournament is Kohli’s last as captain of the national T20 side, but he refused to speak more on the issue.
“Our focus is to play well in this World Cup and do what we need to do as a team,” he said. “I have explained myself very honestly (on Twitter). If people feel there is more to it, then I feel sorry for them.”

• A winning impact is necessary: BABAR

Skipper Babar Azam vowed his team will not think about Pakistan’s poor record against arch-rivals India when they meet in a high-octane Twenty20 World Cup match in Dubai today.
Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup (50 over) clashes against India as well as five games in the Twenty20 World Cup and start as ‘underdogs’.
Exuding confidence, Babar stressed that the past is irrelevant to his players.
“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” Babar told a virtual media conference yesterday, as both nations buzzed in anticipation of a thrilling match.
“We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result.
“Records are meant to be broken.”
The tickets for the match were sold out within hours of going on sale after the United Arab Emirate government allowed a 70 percent crowd for the Twenty20 World Cup matches in a relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The South Asian nuclear rivals have only played in multi-national events like the World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007.
Pakistan did tour India in 2012 for five limited over matches but ties were not fully resumed.
Babar admitted it will be a match full of intensity.
“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game,” said Babar.
Former champions India and Pakistan are placed in Group 2 along with New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland and Namibia, who both came through the qualifying stage. Babar announced 12 for the match with hard-hitters Haider Ali and Asif Ali competing to make the final eleven.
“The boys are excited to play the World Cup and we have a crucial match on Sunday,” said Babar, who will be leading Pakistan for the first time in a senior World Cup match.
“A winning impact is necessary and then we will go match by match.”
Babar said Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan - who led the country to victory in the 1992 World Cup - had shared his experiences with the team.
“The Prime Minister met us before our departure and shared his experiences of the 1992 win and told us to play aggressive and fearless cricket against India.”
Earlier this week, India won both their warm-up matches, beating England and Australia while Pakistan beat the West Indies but lost to South Africa.



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