With bilateral cricket remaining suspended between the neighbors thanks to their soured political relations, emotions run high every time they clash in multi-team encounters at a neutral venue.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is set to be a cauldron of emotions but the tournament’s most anticipated clash could be a wet one this weekend with rain forecast and India captain Rohit Sharma said his team will be ready.
“The toss does become a bit important. But again, I’ve been hearing about the Melbourne weather for a while and it keeps changing,” Rohit said. “You don’t really know what will happen tomorrow.
“The things that are in our control, we will try to control… We have to come here thinking that it is a 40-over game. We will be ready for that. If the situation calls for it to be a shorter game , we will also be ready for it.
“A lot of the guys have played those kinds of games, and they know how to manage themselves in a situation like that where you’re setting up for a 40-over game and then suddenly it’s a 20-over game for both sides. .”
Players from both sides tried to play down the hype surrounding the match, despite tickets selling out within five minutes of going on sale earlier this year.
They even cuddled with each other, although many suspect the bonhomie is a coping mechanism to deal with the pressure of expectation from their unforgiving fans back home.
India will be under particular pressure to avoid a repeat of last year’s World Cup when a 10-wicket haul by Pakistan in their opening batting set the tone for their early exit from the tournament.
The strike rate of their top order and death bowling remains a concern for the first champions who are without injured pace front Jasprit Bumrah.
The onus is on their explosive middle order, led by the spooktacular Suryakumar Yadav, to come good against Pakistan’s formidable pace attack, bolstered by Shaheen Afridi’s return from a knee injury.
Afridi removed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in last year’s tournament to set the tone for their comprehensive victory and the left-arm speedster will be keen to prove his class on Sunday.
Pakistan’s much-maligned middle-order showed signs of form in the recent tri-series in New Zealand, but much will depend on what kind of start they get from Mohammad Rizwan, currently the top-ranked T20 batsman, and captain Babar Azam at the top of the order.
“It is a high-pressure game but we will try to keep it simple and keep confidence in our abilities and the training we have done,” said Babar.
India’s Yadav separates Rizwan and Babar in the official rankings and fans will be justified in expecting batting fireworks in a match with the world’s top three T20 batsmen.