Pakistan’s predicament adds spice to India match-up in New York

Pakistan

Match details

India vs Pakistan
New York, 10.30am local

Big picture: Make-or-nearly-break for Pakistan

Here we go, again. One of the consequences of their politically motivated estrangement in the bilateral-cricket ecosystem is a heightened sense of anticipation when India and Pakistan meet at an ICC event. Even if it’s happened 12 times at 11 tournaments in the 13 years since 2011.

This time, however, is different. India and Pakistan are playing in New York. The ICC are hoping the 34,000-seater stadium it spent millions to speed-build in the span of five months will be at full capacity, to show America the spectacle cricket can be in its most fever-pitched form. There won’t be as many as there were in Melbourne, it won’t be as one-sided as Ahmedabad was, but they will come, and hopefully be witness to a contest worthy of the occasion.

So, if this particular fixture didn’t have enough riding on it already, Pakistan gave it several extra helpings of context with their incredible meltdown against USA in Dallas. Babar Azam’s side unravelled against Virat Kohli in a high-pressure finish in 2022 and were utterly overwhelmed in 2023. If they lose to India again on Sunday, their chances of qualifying for the Super Eights will be at the mercy of other results going their way. Rohit Sharma’s men aren’t facing that sort of heat, having beaten Ireland in their first game.

While India have been based in New York ever since they landed in the USA, and played their warm-up match and their first group game there, Pakistan’s build-up to Sunday has been rather different. They only got to New York before sunrise on Friday, changed their hotel to avoid the painful commute Sri Lanka had to endure, and got their first look at the ground on the eve of the match.

So, here we go, again. India appear stable. Pakistan not so much. It’s often been that way in the lead-up to the most-anticipated fixture of the World Cup.

Form guide

India WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan LLLWW

Pitch and conditions: Which pitch and how will it play?

One of the consequences of creating an international cricket stadium on park land in record time is that the quality of drop-in pitches, which were grown in Florida and transported to New York, has been substandard.

South Africa dismissed Sri Lanka for 77 on pitch No. 1 and chased down the target with some difficulty. India dismissed Ireland for 96 on pitch No. 4 two days later. In that match, Harry Tector, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant were hit on the body, with unpredictable bounce, exaggerated seam movement, and a slow outfield making run-scoring extremely difficult. Following widespread criticism, the ICC acknowledged the problem and said it was trying to find a fix.

On Friday, Canada became the first team to score more than 100 in New York, and defended their score of 137 by 12 runs against Ireland on pitch No. 4. South Africa played Netherlands on a fresh surface – pitch No. 2 – on Saturday. Netherlands scored only 103 for 9 but South Africa were 12 for 4 before eventually winning by four wickets. David Miller, however, said pitch no. 2 played better than pitch no. 1. So India and Pakistan are likely to play on pitch no. 4 or 2.

Fast bowlers have dominated the games so far in New York. With Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Amir and Haris Rauf lining up for Pakistan, and Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya lining up for India, batters on both sides could be in for a battle unless conditions somehow turn out to be dramatically different.

The weather in New York was sunny on the eve of the match, but some weather websites have forecast showers for Sunday morning.

Team news

India are likely to play the same XI that beat Ireland by eight wickets with 46 balls to spare.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Rishabh Pant (wk), 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mohammed Siraj

Imad Wasim did not play Pakistan’s game against USA due to a rib-cage injury, but head coach Gary Kirsten said he is fit and will play against India. Azam Khan, who made a golden duck in Dallas, could get dropped.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammed Rizwan (wk), 2 Babar Azam (capt), 3 Usman Khan, 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Haris Rauf

In the spotlight

Babar Azam had a shocker against USA: 4 off 14 balls in the powerplay, 24 balls before his first boundary, and dismissed for 44 off 43 just when Pakistan desperately needed him to continue the momentum he had only recently wrested. He was also unable to galvanise his team in the field, and they stumbled from blunder to blunder to an embarrassing defeat. Having stepped down as captain in November, only to be reinstated in March, Babar’s leadership could come under severe scrutiny if Sunday doesn’t go Pakistan’s way.

India picked Shivam Dube in the XI primarily as a left-hand disruptor of spin in the middle overs. He isn’t likely to face much of that against Pakistan though. Dube wasn’t a particularly good player of fast bowling but he’s worked on that weakness with the Chennai Super Kings and averaged 44 with a strike rate of 164 against pace in IPL 2024. If he passes the test against Afridi, Naseem, Rauf and Amir, he will put that debate to rest.

Stats and trivia

  • In the first four T20 World Cup matches played in New York, fast bowlers have taken 45 wickets and spinners only 10. Teams have bowled 115.2 overs of pace, and only 27.2 overs of spin at this venue.

  • Babar scored a match-winning 68 off 52 balls against India in Dubai in the 2021 T20 World Cup, and was dismissed for a golden duck by Arshdeep Singh in Melbourne in 2022. He’s not been dismissed by Bumrah (13 off 10 balls) or Jadeja (19 off 14 balls) and has not yet faced Siraj or Hardik in T20Is.
  • Kohli has faced a total of 113 balls in T20Is from Naseem, Amir, Rauf and Shadab and never been dismissed. He’s fallen once in 22 deliveries to Afridi but also has a strike rate of 154 against him. Kohli’s last four T20I scores against Pakistan, since 2021, are 82*, 60, 35 and 57.
  • Quotes

    “This is the uniqueness of T20 cricket. Anything can happen anywhere. In the last World Cup, Pakistan lost to Zimbabwe. But eventually they played the final.”
    Rohit Sharma on whether India are wary of a mercurial Pakistan comeback.

    George Binoy is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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