Saturday saw Asia Cup 2022 start off on a winning note for Afghanistan, who defeated Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the Group B clash in Dubai. But Sunday will see the excitement levels in the Asia Cup go up a couple of notches higher when India face off against Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium.
Sunday’s clash will see the resumption of the ‘greatest rivalry’ in the world of cricket when India and Pakistan open their Asia Cup Group A campaign. This will also be the first meeting between these two teams after facing off in the Men’s T20 World Cup last year in the UAE, where Pakistan secured a resounding 10-wicket victory over India, their first such win in the Men’s World Cups.
Former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif spoke about Sunday’s high-octane clash on a ShareChat Audio Chatroom session titled ‘CricChat powered by Parimatch’. He spoke on Virat Kohli coming back after a break and set to appear in his 100th T20I match, on whether the absence of left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi gives India an advantage, his ideal India playing eleven and the benefit Pakistan has of previously playing often in Dubai.
Excerpts from questions sent by IANS as well as other points in the audio chat:
Q: As everyone knows, Virat Kohli is coming back after a break of a month and a half. What are your personal expectations from him in terms of run-scoring in the Asia Cup?A: I think Virat Kohli will get advantage from the break he took. His mind was switched off as there were a lot of thoughts in his mind, which is not a good thing as a cricketer wants that there isn’t much doubt in mind. Doubts had come in his mind by the way he played and his form wasn’t that great. This was the very first time in Virat Kohli’s life that such a phase came where he was wondering, where to get runs from. In his journey, he has such dream spells where phases like this didn’t come.
He was making centuries, winning matches for his team, was inspiring people as a leader and captain and many people were following what Virat Kohli was doing on the field. But for the first time, he was in a phase in his life where the bat was quiet for 2-3 years, wasn’t the captain as Rohit Sharma has taken over and many other players came.
I feel that the break he took, it will benefit him. Reason behind it is that in a break, you switch off completely and when you aren’t in focus. In the weeks where India played against Zimbabwe and West Indies, there wasn’t (much) focus on Virat Kohli, which was a good thing and I am sure that he would get runs in the match (against Pakistan).Q: For Pakistan, Shaheen Shah Afridi is unavailable for the Asia Cup due to a right knee injury. Do you think that India have got that little bit of edge as Pakistan doesn’t have any other left-arm pacer in their squad?
A: You cannot rule out the new pacers of Pakistan, even if they are playing their first match. Their issues happen with the bat. But you cannot take Pakistan pacers lightly even if Shaheen Shah Afridi is not there. Last year, when Shaheen Shah Afridi played against India, he was a youngster, not a very old pacer. He did his job with two wickets in two balls by taking out KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma and flipped the match in his side’s favour. This mistake (of underestimating Pakistan pacers) won’t be done by the Indian team.
Pakistan pacers have such raw talent. Whoever plays, the challenge in the match from them won’t be easy for the Indian batters.
Q: With India also missing Jasprit Bumrah apart from Harshal Patel, how big does a chance does it give to an impressive Arshdeep Singh to boost his case for the T20 World Cup selection through Asia Cup?
A: Bumrah not being there, you have to somehow compensate for it. Him not being in the team is a point of difficulty. I like Arshdeep Singh as a young prospect and looks like a good pacer. He’s got left-arm pace, can swing the ball and has the ability to hit yorkers as well as delivers the slower balls. The biggest thing is as per the scenarios in the game, he has a lot of understanding about it. He knows which ball has to be bowled and which deliveries have to be bowled against which batter. I feel that he will 100 per cent play in Sunday’s match.
Q: With all the batting regulars coming back like Kohli and KL Rahul, it is presumed that there will be only one slot left for wicketkeeper-batter. In that case, if you were to choose between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik, who would you pick in your eleven and why?
A: Dinesh Karthik may not get a chance in the first match because you have a young keeper in Rishabh Pant and you are supporting him. How long Dinesh Karthik will play, no one knows as he’s 37. Though Rishabh Pant hasn’t got a spectacular record in T20Is and has got to cover up a lot, he’s your player for the future and gets to play a lot of big matches. The more he plays under-pressure matches, he gets to become a much better player. I feel that Pant will be ahead of Karthik (for the match against Pakistan).
Q: Pakistan’s batting is highly dependent on their top three batters, captain Babar Azam, wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan and left-hander Fakhar Zaman. After the trio at the top, they don’t have many experienced players in the batting order. Is this a weak point which India can fully cash upon?
A: You just never know what can happen with Pakistan. In their top three, Fakhar Zaman is a good batter. The slight bit of advantage Pakistan can have is that they have a lot of matches on this ground. They have played a lot of Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches there before being shifted back to Pakistan.
To practice and play matches on those venues, they must have got a great understanding of the pitch. Babar Azam has played a lot there and he must be well aware about the angles as well as field placing. So, that advantage is there for Pakistan as it is like a home ground for them.
Babar, Rizwan and Zaman have played a lot of matches there. But the problem is, their three-four experienced guys are missing. No Shoaib Malik, no Mohammad Hafeez. Last time India met Pakistan, these guys were there too, which benefited them. Their top three is strong, but later on, they will have difficulty as it isn’t that much strong.
Q: In your opinion, what should be India’s ideal playing eleven for their highly-anticipated match against Pakistan?
A: If there is no grass on the pitch and if it’s a flat one, then three spinners can even play. Otherwise, you have Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder apart from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh. They can be the four pacers with which the team can go into the match apart from Jadeja and Chahal as spinners. If they don’t want to play Avesh Khan, they can go in with Ashwin, which depends on how the pitch is and how India shape their playing eleven.
Q: Talking about the venue for Sunday’s game, Dubai International Stadium, it doesn’t have traditional floodlights. Instead, there’s a ‘ring of fire’ with lights installed on the rim of the roof. How does the circular lighting system in the venue affect the fielders?
A: Whenever there are low lights, if the ball travels a bit and goes up on a height of 15-20 metres, then the ball comes straight out of lights. This is not easy, but good fielders can adjust for it. An excuse can’t be used as light was there, so the catch was missed. You have to find ways to take catches or field well.
Under light, difficulty happens. When I used to field in Mohali, there used to be low lights. I didn’t use to like the ground much as the ball used to be spotted a little late and I was a little late on the ball too. So, there will be some catches which will be missed in the match as it won’t be that easy to field.