An India-Pakistan encounter is cricket’s most-anticipated event. In World Cups, the excitement reaches climactic proportions. Come Saturday, another chapter will be added to this epic rivalry as Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium plays host to the eighth encounter between the two teams in ODI World Cups. India hold the enviable record of winning all seven previous encounters.
Will India add to their tally with an eighth victory or will Pakistan finally manage to break the jinx? There will be 22 men on the pitch who will try and leave a decisive imprint on the high-octane affair.
A lowdown on how the two teams stack up…
INDIA’S TOP PICKS
Rohit Sharma (Captain) ODI Batting Rank 11
A big-stage performer, Rohit has been in tremendous touch. Became the newest member of the 10,000 ODI-runs club in Sept. Once settled, Rohit goes on to score big and fast. His weakness is the ball coming back into the pads from a left-arm pacer. Shaheen Afridi will be relishing his chances.
India captain Rohit Sharma, a colossus in white-ball cricket
Shubman Gill ODI Batting Rank 2
Rohit Sharma stated on match eve that “Shubman Gill is 99% available”. Gill’s ‘availability’, after a bout of dengue forced him out of the first two matches, will help India get back to their first-choice XI. The Indian opener is the highest scorer in ODIs this year.
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Kuldeep Yadav ODI Bowling Rank 8
He can be India’s trump card as Pak batters have not played Kuldeep much and had struggled to pick him in the Asia Cup. Kuldeep picked up 5/25 as India scripted their biggest win in ODIs, beating the arch-rivals by 228 runs. Kuldeep has 10 wickets in 5 games against Pakistan to his name.
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Virat Kohli ODI Batting Rank 7
The Indian team’s talisman. A big match player. Whenever India has been in trouble, Kohli has stood up on most occasions. India’s first match of the World Cup against Australia is a testimony to that. At 2-3, India were looking down the barrel and a loss looked imminent. But Kohli, in company of KL Rahul, dragged the team out of the hole. Kohli also has a penchant for raising his game against Pakistan. He has played 15 matches against the arch-rivals and scored 662 runs at an average of 55.16 and a strike-rate of 100.60 with three hundreds and two fifties to his name. His weakness is the left-arm pacer’s angle and he often gets dismissed by poking at an away-going delivery.
KL Rahul (wicketkeeper-batter) ODI Batting Rank 19
The fans’ favourite whipping boy, Rahul has let his bat do the talking since returning from injury lay-offs. Has gone from strength to strength after his 111* against Pak in Asia Cup. His 97* against Australia in Chennai was an inning of sheer class and high skill. With Kohli, he is a crucial middle-overs bat.
Shreyas Iyer ODI Batting Rank 32
India’s preferred No. 4 batter. Plays any kind of spin really well, can accelerate in the middle-overs. The 105 he scored against Australia prior to the World Cup must have boosted his confidence. Has issues against fast bowling, especially against bouncers. Can be a handful if he plays with a still head.
Hardik Pandya ODI Allrounder Rank 7
Vital cog in India’s wheel, Hardik always reserves his best for the arch-rivals. The allrounder not only has the numbers, but a match-winning impact in India-Pakistan games. He averages 69.67 against Pak in ODIs and a SR of 132.28. Not just his batting, Hardik has shone with the ball too in Ind-Pak games.
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Ravindra Jadeja ODI Allrounder Rank 26
A big-match player, he roared back into bowling form against Australia in Chennai. His 3-D game adds a different string to the bow. The captain can depend on him to bowl his 10 overs, especially on Indian pitches. And with the bat, he is an able finisher and scores at strike-rates northwards of 100.
R Ashwin ODI Bowling Rank 139
Till injury to Axar Patel, Ashwin wasn’t even in India’s 50-over plans or the World Cup. Was impressive with his variations against Aussies prior to the World Cup. Newly-added version of the carrom ball is a fresh threat. Is also a handy bat. In pressure situations, one of the best bets the team can have in the middle.
Jasprit Bumrah ODI Bowling Rank 21
The leader of Indian attack, Bumrah recently returned to international cricket after a year-long layoff due to injury. Soon proved he has lost none of his class. His spells against Australia and Afghanistan have been incisive. However, Pakistan have been Bumrah’s Achilles heel. He has just five wickets in seven games to his name against the archrivals with an unflattering average (42.60) and SR of 53.00.
Mohammed Siraj ODI Bowling Rank 2
The No. 2 bowler in ODI bowling rankings, Siraj is going to be the key with the new ball. Only a handful of bowlers can be lethal with both swing and seam, and Siraj is one of them. And more significantly, Siraj’s primary weapon is the wobble seam which he bowls for fun in order to trouble the batters. Siraj is a match-winner and his never-say-die attitude makes him succeed even on flat decks.
12th man: Shardul Thakur ODI Bowling Rank 48
Depends on the pitch whether he will be in the playing XI. It will be a toss-up between him and Ashwin. If the wicket has some assistance for the pacers, Shardul is likely to get the nod. His batting skills down the order make him a viable option. The last two years have been extremely productive for Shardul in terms of wickets in the ODI scenario. But while his downside is his poor economy rate, Shardul can be a partnership breaker.
Rahul Dravid (coach)
Needs no introduction. A veteran of 164 Tests and 344 ODIs, the decorated batsman took up the coaching job of the senior team in 2021 after Ravi Shastri’s contract came to an end. Considered as one of the greatest modern-day batters, the 50-year-old has over 10,000 runs in both Tests as well One-Day Internationals.
PAKISTAN’S TOP PICKS
Babar Azam (captain) ODI Batting Rank 1
One of the best in the business. The No. 1 in ODI batting rankings. A connoisseur’s delight. ODI average is a high 57.09, but Babar has a mediocre record against India – not even one half-century in seven games. Babar’s weakness is the away-going ball which he tends to edge to the slip cordon.
Imam-ul-Haq ODI Batting Rank 9
The left-hander takes some time to settle, but once in, can play big, impactful innings. Despite being compact, he is vulnerable early on. Has a penchant for driving away from his body. Averaged 72.14 (strike-rate 94.75) in ODIs last year. This year (avg 36.54, SR : 79.17) has been underwhelming.
Saud Shakeel ODI Batting Rank 257
Gutsy left-handed batter is more at home in the Test arena, with an average of 87.50. ODIs are new for him, but he showed big potential in the two World Cup games played so far. Technically sound against both pace and spin, can take the aggressive route too. Could be tested against the Indian spinners.
Shadab Khan ODI Allrounder Rank 14
The spin spearhead in the side, he forms the think-tank along with Babar and Rizwan. In 7 matches against India, he averages 72.20 with ball, SR of 65.40 and ER 6.62. Averages 19.33 with the bat, which doesn’t do justice to his ability. Could come under ?re on Saturday by likes of Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul.
Hasan Ali ODI Bowling Rank 88
Got a surprise call-up to the squad after Naseem Shah got injured. The experienced pacer has picked up six wickets from two matches in the World Cup. Record against India is disappointing. He averages 51.60, strikes at 46.20, and has an economy rate of 6.70 in ODIs against the neighbours.
Shaheen Afridi ODI Bowling Rank 11
Nicknamed ‘The Falcon’, Afridi is one of the few players in the Pakistani lineup who enjoys a good record against India. An out-and-out match-winner, the six-feet-four fast bowler can change the course of a game in his opening spell itself. He has immense control with the new ball as well as the old. However, he has not been at his best in the World Cup. Some experts have even questioned his fitness. Still, he remains Pak’s main attacking weapon. How he bowls on the day will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the match.
Abdullah Shafique ODI Batting Rank 187
Proved the rabbit out of Pak’s hat when he was picked ahead of Fakhar Zaman and came up with a sparkling 113 against Sri Lanka as Pak chased down 344. Pak’s preferred Test opener, Shafique’s technique is pretty good too. How he counters Bumrah and Siraj will have a significant bearing on their score.
Mohd Rizwan (wicketkeeper-batter) ODI Batting Rank 40
The engine room in the Pak set-up, Rizwan’s confidence must be sky-high after his match-winning unbeaten 131 against Sri Lanka. Is enjoying a fine 2023 with 827 runs at avg of 75.18 and SR of 94.73. Plays in the Javed Miandad mould by knocking singles and twos and running hard between the wickets.
Iftikhar Ahmed ODI Batting Rank 96
Called ‘Ifti chacha’ by his adoring team, Pakistan media and fans, he is one of their most experienced players and a power hitter down the order. An ODI SR of 106.12 says it all. If he manages to get 10-15 overs towards the end, Iftikhar has the game to hit boundaries at will. Can be absolutely brutal.
Mohammed Nawaz ODI Allrounder Rank 73
Another utility player, Nawaz offers control with the ball when the opposition batters are on top. Known for his quickfire knocks as an effective lower-order bat. Guided his team to victory with a brisk 42 off 20 balls in last year’s Asia Cup tie against India. Could be vital against India’s right-handers.
Haris Rauf ODI Bowling Rank 20
The enforcer in Pak’s bowling lineup. Rauf makes things happen with his thunderbolts at over 150kmph. Bowls a mean slower delivery too. Has been in excellent form this year, with 29 wickets from 15 games. Will come hard at Indian batsmen. However, he has the tendency to give away runs when he goes for wickets.
12th man: Mohammad Wasim Jr. ODI Bowling Rank 94
A fast bowling allrounder, Wasim Jr. could get a look-in should Pakistan go in with four fasts. With a slingy action, Wasim Jr. can generate high speed and is adept at bowling yorkers. Pak’s preferred death bowler before Naseem Shah made a dazzling entry into the team. No bunny with the bat, he is a six-hitting slogger.
Grant Bradburn (coach)
Took over the reins of the Pakistan team in May this year. A former New Zealand off-spinner, the 57-year-old Bradburn played seven Tests between 1990 to 2001. Bradburn had coached Scotland after being at the helm of the Kiwi domestic side Northern districts and the New Zealand U-19 team.