Who is favourite in new show of old rivalry? | The Daily Star
05:28 PM, February 27, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:44 PM, February 27, 2016

Who is favourite as old rivals India and Pakistan lock horns?

The marquee clash of the Asia Cup is set to be a mouth-watering one. India and Pakistan do not play each other often enough in the international circuit thanks to the political tension between the two countries. A rivalry bound by history is now restricted to tournaments such as these and ICC events only. The last time the two teams faced off was in the World Cup in 2015. And before that it was in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in 2014.

The proposed bilateral series between the two sides did not kick off after the Indian government failed to give the go-ahead. Thus, this contest gets a little more colour to it off the field. For the players though, the challenges will be entirely different.

For a lot of the Pakistan players, this will be their first taste of such a high-pressure game. India are luckier on that count. Only three from India's squad and only two from the first eleven - Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah - have not featured in an India-Pakistan encounter. For Pakistan the same figure counts up to six.

While the edge of traditional rivalry continues, this particular one might not have the fierce undertones of previous clashes, but will be an important one, nevertheless, for both teams.

Pakistan arrived in Bangladesh only a day before their first practice session. A lot of their players featured in the recently-concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) and so will be in touch with the format. Their challenge will be to adapt to the conditions quick enough. If the conditions in Mirpur remain the same, they will find it a little easier to adjust as well, given their pace-heavy attack.

For India it will be about continuing the momentum gathered. They are not expected to make any changes to the squad that won against Bangladesh, unless there are injury concerns. One such would be the fitness of skipper MS Dhoni. He did not take part in the practice session prior to the game and the reason given was that he needed a bit of rest. India will probably wait until match day to take a final call. He played through the first game with back spasms and will probably do so again, given the momentous occasion.

Pakistan have imported Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Nawaz after their impressive performances in the PSL. Both of them are likely to find a spot straightaway in the playing XI. Much of the focus though will surround Pakistan's pace attack. Foremost amongst them will be Mohammad Amir, who has had a steady comeback to international cricket. This will be his first game against India since making a return. No doubt there will be some fuss surrounding it, but should ease off once the game starts.

If Pakistan will go with all three left-arm seamers - Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Amir - it would pose the Indian batsmen with an interesting challenge. Mohammad Sami will be breathing down their neck as well after doing well in the PSL.

Pakistan's spin attack comprises of mainly all-rounders and they fit the role in this format. The individual plans will have been done as well. However the tradition of talk surrounding Pakistan's bowlers against Indian batsmen continues. This particular match will be even more interesting given the green nature of the Mirpur track.

For both teams, the bigger picture will be the World T20. While India have their combination settled, this game will also kick start Pakistan's preparations for thesame. On paper, they look a formidable mix with plenty of all-rounders. Their concern will be on zeroing in on the best middle order possible apart from the spinners.

Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim are pretty similar players, but the former is likely to get the nod ahead for the clash against India thanks to his PSL performance.

There is plenty to look forward to as it always is the case with any cricket match between these two teams. With another such clash coming up in less than a month, this one should act as an apt dress rehearsal for the same.

Squads:

India: Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parthiv Patel

Pakistan: Anwar Ali, Khurram Manzoor, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Sarfraz Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Sami, Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif

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