He hasn’t played in the IPL since 2014, yet Test star Cheteshwar Pujara has shown he has plenty left to give in the T20 format with a scorching hundred.
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India beat England at home convincingly, while Pakistan won the T20 tri-series against Australia and Zimbabwe to retain their number one ranking.
Fans from around the world would want to see India against Pakistan to determine who is the real number one team in the shortest format. Arguments can be in favour of Pakistan considering its recent run of victories in T20 cricket against the top teams, cemented when Pakistan chased a mammoth total of 183 in the final despite being two down in the first over.
But then India also overcame the English challenge by knocking off 199 runs in the 18th over.
Let’s analyse how India and Pakistan would stack up against each other.
India has Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, two of the most destructive players in world cricket, at the top. Both are established and have stamped their authority in limited-overs cricket – in fact Rohit Sharma recently got his record-breaking third T20 ton. Shikhar Dhawan isn’t far behind, having been a leading run-scorer across the last three or four IPL seasons.
Pakistan has Fakhar Zaman, who has no doubt taken the world by storm since the Champions Trophy 2017, he is yet to reach the level of performance of either of his Indian counterparts. Add to that the uncertainty of his opening partner, and India has the edge here.
2. Middle order
India’s middle order features Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya, while Pakistan has Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Khan, Asif Ali and all-rounders Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan.
There’s no need to compare anyone to Shoaib Malik, who has over 2000 runs in T20 cricket and can pose a challenge to the opposition by holding the middle order together. Sarfaraz Khan is aggressive can take the attack to the opposition, but does he have the luxury of players around him who can rotate the strike against high-quality bowling? Not yet.
India’s middle order needs no introduction. The likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina are among the bests in the world when it comes to the shortest format. Virat Kohli was the man of the tournament for 2014 and 2016 T20 world cups. Suresh Raina is one of the IPL’s greats, and even playing for the country has been the architect of many wins. With MS Dhoni in the squad, you can be assured of the safe pair of hands behind the stump and a reliable man for the DRS. He may be ageing, but he is far from done – his recent form in the IPL is proof of it.
Pakistan does have superstrong bowling in Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, young Shaheen Afridi and a couple of all-rounders in Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf, who on their day can be a very effective and do hold the potential to tear apart any batting line-up.
India’s loss in the Champions Trophy final is proof of how good Pakistan’s bowling can be on its day – though Pakistan posted a big total in the finals of the Champions Trophy, which gave the bowlers those extra runs to play with.
As far as Indian bowling goes, India has Bhuveshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and, more importantly, two mystery leggies, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who can single-handedly win matches for you. India lacked the x-factor in the Champions Trophy and hence were allowed to post such big total.
But India’s bowlers are now more experienced. There’s more muscle in the Indian line-up with spinners, so it’s highly unlikely Pakistan batting can easily get away. And if Pakistan’s batsmen don’t score many runs, the bowlers are merely in the equation.
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Mercurial Pakistan on its day can be world-beaters, but this Indian team is a well-oiled machine. And head-to-head in T20s Pakistan have won just once in ten matches played so far between two nations, though history doesn’t count on a particular day – but current form does.
Pakistan beat a weak Australian unit while India had victory over an excellent T20 side England. Moreover, with India you can be sure of half-chances been taken and ground fielding being very good, something you can’t say about the Pakistan team.
Clearly in India versus Pakistan, India will be the winner if it is a three or five -match series.