Super clash awaits as India take on Pakistan Saturday


Centurion : India should be inspired by the fact that they have never lost to Pakistan in an International Cricket Council (ICC) event when the two clash in the Champions Trophy here Saturday, never mind the state of the team’s physical health with a fair share of injuries.

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To be precise, the two sub-continental cricket giants are facing off in the country they last met two years and two days ago when India beat Pakistan to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship in a breathtaking finish.

Pakistan have wrested the World Twenty20 title this year and the two champions will be meeting at a time when there is talk of dumping the 50-overs game from the ICC list of events.

The two teams can pump some oxygen into the 50-over format if they can take Saturday’s no-hold-barred clash to the wire. An early Indian exit can not only cause immense disappointment to the hordes of expatriates here, but it can also hurt the commercial interests of the ICC. Everyone here is looking forward to a title clash between the two nations.

For Pakistan it is a big game as they have announced their return to international cricket by winning the World Twenty20 after international teams refused to visit that country for security reasons. The strife-torn country was starved of big-time cricket and eventually they had to play their matches in the Gulf. Now they are even playing their Test against Australia in England next summer.

A blend of youth and experienced players are trying desperately to prop Pakistan and a fit-again Younis Khan will be back to lead them in the crucial tie against India in their Group A match at the SuperSport Park after missing the game against West Indies with a hairline fracture in his little finger.

The rise of teenagers like Mohammad Aamer and Umar Akmal is the talking point in Pakistan cricket and so is the return of experienced players like Mohammed Yousuf, Imran Nazir and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan after hobnobbing with the now defunct rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL).

Left-arm medium-pacer Aamer and dashing batsman Umar, younger brother of wicketkeeper Kamran, showed that they have the potential to be the future stars of Pakistan cricket with their impressive performances in recent months.

But all eyes will be on controversial fast bowler Mohammad Asif who is likely to feature against India after serving a one-year doping ban for testing positive in the first Indian Premier League (IPL). His ban ended Tuesday and he underwent a dope test Thursday.

Pakistan will be looking forward to a vastly-improved performance from their batsmen against India’s excellent fast bowlers Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Rudra Pratap Singh.

Pakistan will be looking to improve their chances of making it to the semi-finals from the four-team group, which also has defending champions Australia.

India have to live-up to the tag of the world No.1 and then make up for the loss of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, who are all out of the tournament with injuries.

India’s batting has suffered in the absence of match-winners Yuvraj and Sehwag, the former going out with a fractured finger and Virat Kohli comes in as a replacement for the second time in three weeks as the Delhi youngster went to Sri Lanka after Gautam Gambhir returned home with a groin strain.

Despite the absence of Sehwag and Yuvraj, the Indian batting has a formidable look with the two veterans Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid looking good for big innings and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his new deputy Gambhir providing the thrust up front. Harbhajan Singh is fast developing into a handy all-rounder.

India will look to maintain their winning streak, having won five successive bilateral one-day series — the most recent being the tri-series in Sri Lanka.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Rudra Pratap Singh, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar.

Pakistan: Younus Khan (captain), Imran Nazir, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Rao Iftikhar, Saeed Ajmal.

Umpires: Simon Taufel and Steve Davis (both Australia)

TV umpire: Ian Gould (England)

Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)