India-Pak Asia Cup clash marks return of the greatest rivalry on UAE soil

After two years of delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and a shift in venue due to the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the Asia Cup is finally going to happen in the UAE from August 27 to September 11.

What makes this year’s tournament, to be held in the T20 format in Dubai and Sharjah, special is that it will also mark the return of the greatest rivalry in men’s cricket — India vs Pakistan. The return of the Asia Cup to the UAE also brings back the tradition of India-Pakistan matches being played in the country through the 1980s and 1990s, mainly in Sharjah.

India, the defending champions and seven-time winners of the trophy, will be looking to retain their throne as the best in Asia. A successful defence of the Asia Cup title ahead of the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November, where they will be facing Pakistan too on October 23, will be a huge boost for India, who have embraced an attacking style of play with the bat since their early exit from the tournament last year.

Pakistan, who had a stunning run to the semifinals in the UAE in the T20 World Cup last year, will be looking to be the prime challengers and do an encore of their 10-wicket victory over India during the mega event.

There are high chances that the greatest rivalry featuring India and Pakistan will not only happen once or twice, but potentially thrice in the tournament if both teams make it to the finals. After the group stage match on August 28 at the Dubai International Stadium, India and Pakistan will be well on track to face each other in the Super Four stage and, who knows, there could be a tantalising title clash too.

In Asia Cup, India have faced Pakistan 14 times, winning eight matches while ending up on the losing side on five occasions. Five of those eight wins have come in India’s last six meetings with Pakistan in the Asia Cup since 2010. The last time India lost to Pakistan was in 2014, in Mirpur, Bangladesh.

At a time where there is no bilateral cricket between the two teams, an India-Pakistan clash in box-office events like Asia Cup and World Cups is more like touch and go. Of late, India had been the dominator in the big-ticket clash, until Pakistan changed the script last year in Dubai.

Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf clicked well in unison to keep India to 151. Captain Babar Azam and his deputy Mohammad Rizwan then finished off the chase with half-centuries, peppered with such precision without being broken by the Indian bowlers for a 01-wicket victory which broke their World Cup hoodoo against them.

Unarguably, an India-Pakistan clash is the biggest eyeballs-grabbing match in the cricketing world, financially as well as social media views-wise. But with the hype and pressure around, it is also a match, which will test the mental toughness and temperament of a player.

Performing big in India-Pakistan matches can hand a cricketer cult status if he leads the side to a victory while for the losing side, massive backlash is in store back home.

Come August 28, an evening blockbuster awaits fans from both India and Pakistan when Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma lead their teams on the field at the Dubai International Stadium to write another chapter of the greatest rivalry in the world of cricket.

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