In the previous contest that took place between the arch-rivals during the T20 World Cup last year in the UAE, Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets in a Super-12 fixture and as the two countries get set for another round of mouth-watering battles in the upcoming Asia Cup 2022, which will be played in the T20 format, India will be looking to bounce back strong. On paper, the Men in Blue are a far stronger and well-balanced side than Pakistan.
Since the T20 World Cup last year, quite a few things have changed, especially for Team India. New skipper Rohit Sharma‘s aggressive approach in the shortest format will be up for a stiff test while Pakistan, who have only played 3 T20I series since that 2021 clash vs India, will be looking to get back in the groove ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup.
With the teams ranked World number 1 (India) and 3 (Pakistan) getting ready to lock horns on Sunday (August 28), TimesofIndia.com here compares the strengths of both the teams across all the departments which are likely to be match-winning factors:
Over the years, one of the key highlights of an India-Pakistan clash has been the face-off between India batters and the Pakistan fast bowlers. Barring a handful of aberrations, the Indian top-order has been one of the most feared in world cricket. Pakistan, on the other hand, in the last few years have made remarkable improvements in their batting and today carry one of the most flamboyant top-order batters in their line-up.
🔊 Sound 🔛#TeamIndia captain @ImRo45 & @imVkohli get into the groove ahead of the first clash against Pakistan.… https://t.co/evF9iFiqt3
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1661434268000
India’s top order, consisting of the likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav, will be one of the major strong suits of India. On a given day, each of these four batters can take the game away singlehandedly from the opposition. The trio of Rohit, Rahul and Virat in particular have mind-boggling numbers and stellar reputations and they will be India’s biggest strength in the Asia Cup.
Although Rahul and Virat are returning to international cricket after an injury lay-off and a break respectively, their batting prowess and experience will be making the opposition bowlers sweat.
Rohit, Rahul and Virat in numbers (T20Is):
Rohit Sharma – Matches: 132, Runs: 3487, Highest score: 118, Average: 32.28, Strike rate: 140.26
KL Rahul – Matches: 56, Runs: 1831, Highest score: 110*, Average: 40.68, Strike rate: 142.49
Virat Kohli – Matches: 99, Runs: 3308, Highest score: 94*, Average: 50.12, Strike rate: 137.66
Also for India, with Kohli and Rahul short on game time, skipper Rohit can also spring a surprise, opening alongside Suryaumar Yadav or Rishabh Pant, moving Virat and KL a bit lower down the order. With both Surya and Pant in red-hot form, the trick might just do wonders for Team India.
Pakistan’s opening duo of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan meanwhile have been one of the best opening pairs in T20Is in the last couple of years. While Rizwan notched up the feat of scoring the most runs in T20Is in 2021 (1326 runs in 26 matches), his skipper was second on that list with 939 runs in 26 matches in the same year. The duo of Babar and Rizwan are known to play fearlessly and have had quite a few record-breaking outings in recent times.
Keeping the intensity level 🆙 💪Training session for the boys ✅#AsiaCup2022 | #BackTheBoysInGreen https://t.co/LfDXhsdzvV
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) 1661537368000
Stylish left-hander Fakhar Zaman is an experienced campaigner at No.3, but his inconsistency has been a big worry for Pakistan for a while now. The 32-year-old has got over 1200 runs under his belt and the stylish left-hander will look to make a mark in the high-profile contest against the arch-rivals.
Babar, Rizwan and Fakhar in numbers (T20Is):
Babar Azam – Matches: 74, Runs: 2686, Highest score: 122, Average: 45.52, Strike rate: 129.44
Mohammad Rizwan – Matches: 56, Runs: 1662, Highest score: 104*, Average: 50.36, Strike rate: 128.83
Fakhar Zaman – Matches: 65, Runs: 1253, Highest score: 91, Average: 22.37, Strike rate: 131.61
How India and Pakistan have fared at the Asia Cup
Middle-order and finishers
In the T20 World Cup encounter vs Pakistan last year, after the Indian top-order suffered a collapse, the fear of failure crept into India’s middle-order.
The likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, who carry the reputation of being mighty sloggers and can take any bowling attack to the cleaners, crumbled under pressure. But that was a rare failure. India’s middle-order’s rebuilding and finishing capabilities have become much stronger since that World Cup debacle.
Suryakumar, Pant and Hardik in numbers (T20Is):
Suryakumar Yadav – Matches: 23, Runs: 672, Highest score: 117, Average: 37.33, Strike rate: 175.45
Rishabh Pant – Matches: 54, Runs: 883, Highest score: 65*, Average: 23.86, Strike rate: 126.32
Hardik Pandya – Matches: 67, Runs: 834, Highest score: 51, Average: 23.16, Strike rate: 144.04
Whack Whack Whack at the nets 💥 💥, courtesy @imjadeja & @RishabhPant17 👌👌#TeamIndia | #AsiaCup2022 | #AsiaCup https://t.co/FNVCbyoEdn
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1661514019000
With all the three above batters having astronomical strike rates and with the inclusion of ‘designated finisher’ Dinesh Karthik in the squad, India’s middle-order looks very strong at this stage and will be one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Pakistan, on the other hand have the likes of Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali in their middle order, who although are not too experienced when compared to India’s middle-order, but certainly have the capability of taking on the opposition bowlers on any given day.
Haider, Iftikhar and Asif in numbers (T20Is):
Haider Ali – Matches: 21, Runs: 406, Highest score: 68, Average: 23.88, Strike rate: 128.48
Iftikhar Ahmed – Matches: 18, Runs: 271, Highest score: 62*, Average: 30.11, Strike rate: 134.15
Asif Ali – Matches: 39, Runs: 435, Highest score: 41*, Average: 17.40, Strike rate: 133.84
All the three batters have played less than 100 T20 internationals combined, but have strike rates in excess of 125 and can pose a stiff challenge to the Indian bowlers in the middle and the death overs.
Stars align ahead of the #AsiaCup2022 🤩A high-profile meet and greet on the sidelines 👏 https://t.co/c5vsNCi6xw
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) 1661450306000
Pakistan over the decades has been known for producing world-class pacers. From time to time Pakistani bowlers, with their express pace have tormented the batters around the world. And this time too, not surprisingly, Babar Azam and co. have a heavy pace attack going into the Asia Cup.
Their current pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi will be missing due to an injury, and the likes of Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain and Shahnawaz Dahani don’t have a whole lot of T20I experience under their belt. The 19 year old Naseem, probably their fastest bowler, is yet to make his T20I debut.
Rauf, Hasnain, Dahani in numbers (T20Is):
Haris Rauf – Matches: 35, Wickets: 42, Economy: 8.51, Strike rate: 17.5, Best bowling: 4/22
Mohammad Hasnain – Matches: 18, Wickets: 17, Economy: 7.90, Strike rate: 23.2, Best bowling: 3/37
Shahnawaz Dahani – Matches: 2, Wickets: 2, Economy: 6.71, Strike rate: 21.0, Best bowling: 1/23
From Haris bowling at 145 – 150 clicks to young Naseem with his tearaway pace and raring to shine in T20Is, the Pakistani bowlers definitely pack a punch on paper. But the Indian batting line-up should be well-equipped to handle the challenges these bowlers will throw at them, considering the chasm in experience between the players in the two teams.
India meanwhile will be missing the services of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel, who are out with injuries but the trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan bring a lot to the table in terms of both experience, youthful verve and variations.
While Bhuvneshwar is a seasoned campaigner, Arshdeep has had a great start to his international career. His left-arm pace will also bring in a different kind of variety which India has been looking for in the shortest format.
Bhuvneshwar, Arshdeep and Avesh in numbers (T20Is):
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – Matches: 72, Wickets: 73, Economy: 6.93, Strike rate: 20.2, Best bowling: 5/24
Arshdeep Singh – Matches: 6, Wickets: 9, Economy: 6.33, Strike rate: 13.7, Best bowling: 3/12
Avesh Khan – Matches: 13, Wickets: 11, Economy: 8.67, Strike rate: 22.0, Best bowling: 4/18
From swinging the new ball to nailing those perfect yorkers, India has a solid pace attack and their success will be a crucial factor if India are to triumph in the games against Pakistan and in the tournament overall. The Pakistan pacers – man for man – might be faster, but the Indian pace attack is way more balanced and a more tried and tested force. The evolution of their pace attack has been one of the hallmarks of the progress of Indian cricket over the last few years, which of course has lent a lot of balance overall to the team structure, across formats.
The all-rounders are one of the biggest assets in any T20I team and India in this aspect is far ahead when it comes to comparisons with Pakistan.
Chipping in both bat and bowl in the field, all-rounders are the hottest properties in T20Is and with the likes of Hardik Pandya , Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Hooda and R Ashwin in the side, India has got all its bases covered in this department.
Hardik, Jadeja, Hooda and Ashwin in numbers (T20Is):
Hardik Pandya – Matches: 67, Runs: 843, Highest score: 51, Average: 23.16, Strike rate: 144.04, Wickets: 8.28, Economy: 8.28
Ravindra Jadeja – Matches: 62, Runs: 422, Highest score: 46*, Average: 23.44, Strike rate: 124.85, Wickets: 50, Economy: 7.12
Deepak Hooda – Matches: 9, Runs: 274, Highest score: 104, Average: 54.80, Strike rate: 161.17, Wickets: 0, Economy: 5.80
R Ashwin – Matches: 54, Runs: 146, Highest score: 31*, Average: 29.20, Strike rate: 111.45, Wickets: 64, Economy: 6.78
A fast bowling all-rounder in Hardik along with southpaw Jadeja will be the preferred choices for India going into their opener against Pakistan and the duo at the moment is miles ahead of what Pakistan have in their arsenal in the form of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz.
Both Hardik and Jadeja have been proven performers and have contributed massively to Team India’s success.
For Pakistan, Shadab is the most experienced in terms of the all-rounders and is the glue that binds their team together. He is also the Pakistan vice-captain.
Shadab Khan in T20Is – Matches: 64, Runs: 275, Highest score: 42, Average: 18.33, Strike rate: 136.81, Wickets: 73, Economy: 7.11
Spinners and fielders
Spin bowlers in T20Is have been crucial cogs for teams and India continues to dominate in this department as well with the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and the very experienced R Ashwin providing skipper Rohit Sharma plenty of options to choose from, along with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Bishnoi. .
The likes of Ashwin and Chahal are highly skilled and experienced campaigners and know the ins and outs of being successful in the shortest format. Ashwin’s inclusion did raise a few eyebrows, but going by how well he has been doing in the IPL, he could be a potent force if included in the playing XI.
Going into the Asia Cup, India has arguably one of the most dangerous spin bowling combinations with Ravi Bishnoi and Ravindra Jadeja being the perfect additions to the likes of Chahal and Ashwin.
Skipper Rohit indeed has a lot of options in this department and it will be a difficult task for him as well as the team management to make the precise choices against a highly motivated Pakistan, who know a thing or two about playing in the UAE, considering this was their home venue for many years.
Ashwin, Chahal and Ravi in numbers (T20Is):
R Ashwin – Matches: 54, Wickets: 64, Economy: 6.78, Strike rate: 19.0, Best bowling: 4/8
Yuzvendra Chahal – Matches: 62, Wickets: 79, Economy: 8.09, Strike rate: 17.7, Best bowling: 6/25
Ravi Bishnoi – Matches: 9, Wickets: 15, Economy: 7.15, Strike rate: 13.8, Best bowling: 4/16
Babar Azam, on the other hand will be thin on the spin bowling options front, but Shadab Khan will have the support of Usman Qadir and the duo will look to rattle the India batters in the high-octane contests.
India seemingly have an advantage in the spin bowling department but for Pakistan newbie Qadir, who is the son of the legendary Abdul Qadir, can be the surprise package.
India, as usual will be better equipped in the fielding department with the likes of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya being the live wires on the field. Pakistan traditionally have not been known for their fielding heroics in the recent decades but they are a work in progress.
Looking at the overall picture, India are definitely a more finely-tuned side compared to Pakistan as they head into the 15th edition of the Asia Cup which will also be a precursor for the T20 World Cup, scheduled to take place later in the year. But the Pakistan team has traditionally been a side that can beat the best on their day – Team India experienced that in the T20 World Cup last year. You just never know which Pakistan side will turn up on the day.
India have a perfect mix of players but the 3 areas that will be their real strong suits will be their top order batters, spin bowlers and the all-rounders.
If India’s top heavyweights fire, they have the capability to take the game away from Pakistan very quickly. The spinners too are highly skilled and can choke the opposition for runs in the middle overs, forcing them to make mistakes. Finally, the likes of Hardik and Jadeja will be expected to bring their A-games to the table as all-rounders, providing that late flourish towards the back end of the innings and getting the crucial middle over breakthroughs with the ball.
For Pakistan, the top order, especially the openers Babar Azam and Mohd. Rizwan will be the key in setting up the tone in this high-profile contest. The duo has been in red-hot form in the last couple of years and Pakistan will bank on them heavily to lay the groundwork for an exciting contest.
Along with that – the age-old contest – the matchup between Pakistan pacers and India batters is expected to be a mouth-watering battle. Even without Shaheen Afridi, the Pakistan pacers will be Babar’s major strength going into the contest.
The middle-order for Pakistan does look quite fragile but the likes of Asif Ali and Shadab Khan, who carry the reputations of being mighty sloggers will be looking to step up to the plate and deliver. The role the Pakistan finishers play could be one of the major factors that decide which way the contest swings.
After their group stage clash, India and Pakistan are of course expected to play in the Super 4s and then potentially for a third time in the final. Get ready for a cricketing carnival at this year’s Asia Cup.