India v Pakistan, World T20 2016, Group 2, Kolkata March 18, 2016

Rejuvenated Pakistan out to test India's bouncebackability

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Match facts

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)

Play 04:45
Chappell: India the better side on paper

Big picture

The build-up to the India-Pakistan clash began once Dharamsala was named as the venue on December 11 last year. Political tensions and security concerns in the weeks preceding the World Twenty20, however, left the administrators and fans in a limbo: 'Will they, won't they?'

On March 9, a day after the start of the tournament, the impasse was finally over and the match was tipped over from Dharamsala to Kolkata. On the eve of the game in Kolkata, R Ashwin revisited clichés and told a horde of reporters that the India-Pakistan rivalry was "probably bigger than the Ashes".

India and Pakistan had provided a precursor during the Asia Cup last month when Mohammad Amir's fire was countered by Virat Kohli's ice. India grooved to the Asia Cup title; Pakistan suffered a pre-mature exit and were in chaos, with some barbs even directed at captain Shahid Afridi.

Both sides have played just a match in the World T20 so far, but have had vastly different results. The pressure is now on India who had custard pie smashed on their faces by the largely unheralded spin trio of Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, and Nathan McCullum. Currently placed fourth in a group of five, India need to win, or they will have to rely on other results going their way. Things seem to be falling in place for Pakistan at the right moment: the top order delivered on Wednesday against Bangladesh, as did Afridi. Once-upon-a-time finisher, Shoaib Malik is back to slip in to a similar role, and can also bind the innings if there is a (familiar) implosion.

The Kolkata pitch has been on the sluggish side, but Pakistan's penchant for pace is their way of life. India's middle order, which has been shielded by Kohli's imperious form, was brutally exposed by New Zealand, and Dhoni conceded the batsmen lacked adaptability. Can the middle order produce a better riposte if Kohli's bubble is burst again?

Form guide

(last five completed matches)
India LWWWW
Pakistan WWLWL

Watch out for

Yuvraj Singh had spent 144 minutes in the middle with the bat on considerably green pitches in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Three Saturdays earlier, he had to deal with the high-speed bustle of Amir and Mohammad Irfan. Yuvraj will have to contend with it again, and the stakes will be higher this time.

Before the tournament, Rohit Sharma had played down the Amir threat, calling the quick a "normal bowler". In January, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said: " I still feel Amir is not at his best… he's getting there." He got there, or nearly got there with seven wickets at 11.57 in the Asia Cup. Slow pitch or not, normal or extraordinary, Amir will be Pakistan's main man. Rohit v Amir will perhaps set the match up.

Team news

MS Dhoni fiddles with the XI only once in a blue moon. Ashwin remained coy on Pawan Negi's inclusion in a high-pressure game against Pakistan. Ajinkya Rahane is available as a middle-order option, but India are likely to stick to the same XI unless Mohammed Shami comes in for Ashish Nehra.

India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan 2 Rohit Sharma 3 Virat Kohli 4 Suresh Raina 5 Yuvraj Singh 6 Hardik Pandya 7 MS Dhoni (capt &wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja 9 R Ashwin 10 Ashish Nehra 11 Jasprit Bumrah

With the team finding some rhythm and opening its campaign with a big win, Pakistan may not disturb their combination either.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Sharjeel Khan 2 Ahmed Shehzad 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Umar Akmal 5 Shoaib Malik 6 Shahid Afridi(capt) 7 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk) 8 Imad Wasim 9 Wahab Riaz 10 Mohammad Amir 11 Mohammad Irfan

Pitch and conditions

The Kolkata track for the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka match offered the spinners grip and slow turn. The quick fizzers and googlies from Rashid Khan, a legspinner in the mould of Afridi, also skidded on and tied down the opposition. A similar pitch is in the offing and the weather is expected to be fine for the duration of the game.

Stats and trivia

  • The last time Pakistan played a T20 international in India, in 2012, Yuvraj clattered 72 off 36 balls.
  • Afridi needs two wickets to surpass Lasith Malinga as the overall leading wicket-taker in the World T20.
  • India have played Pakistan 10 times in the 50-over World Cup and the World T20, and have won nine matches. The Durban T20 in 2007 was tied, after which India prevailed in the bowl-out.

Quotes

"We felt [the Kolkata crowd's backing] in the last game. Probably after the statement of Afridi - which was brought into controversy and brought into newspapers and all over - we felt that we were very welcome, the crowd was really behind us against Bangladesh. I know it is not going to be behind us against India, but yes that is the positive we are going to take and we are going to try to play the best cricket."
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis on the Kolkata crowd

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sammy on March 20, 2016, 3:50 GMT

    Pakistan's bowling is world class. But the batting is third class. Once again the batsmen were mediocre at best and India easily crushed them. Too much was made of Pakistan's victory against Bangladesh. But now they are back at the bottom of the pile again.The great Lala failed again with the bat and the ball. The PCB should come to their senses and fire him immediately. This man will not leave on his own. He cares not for his country.

  • kickapakibutt on March 20, 2016, 1:27 GMT

    Is MSD losing his touch? Ashwin and Jadeja did not finish their quota, Yuv did not bowl at all? What was he thinking?

  • GaneshDurai on March 19, 2016, 17:55 GMT

    Again India Rocks!!!!! Back to winning streak

  • sunnysigara on March 19, 2016, 16:31 GMT

    @Nampally After all this you want MSD to be not robotic!! Did he include Harbhajan in this type of pitch? Manish is not even in the squad. It seems India want to exit early from WT20. My bet is on Pak and Nz to qualify from this group.

  • NadanaSundaram on March 19, 2016, 16:28 GMT

    Run a ball Achievable target. Go India

  • sunnysigara on March 19, 2016, 16:15 GMT

    Very poor bowling by India in this pitch. They left out Harbhajan on this pitch. First loss in world cup is coming up. Great strategy by Pak to keep wickets in hand.

  • sunnysigara on March 19, 2016, 16:06 GMT

    Why on earth Harbhajan is not plating this game? There are playing useless Hardik in this pitch. Where is the leg spinner? India might want to exit early and concentrate on IPL.

  • WildKangaroo on March 19, 2016, 15:06 GMT

    Pakistani batting looks as nonsense as Bumrah's action. At least Bumrah is effective

  • C.Knight on March 19, 2016, 14:57 GMT

    Can they start with the match already? National anthem, dignitaries etc. are getting too gimicky. since when did singing national anythem before the game become the norm.

  • Warlock786 on March 19, 2016, 14:53 GMT

    What has Pakistan done ??? 4 fast bowlers when they know this pitch will turn and India got out to spin in the last match. So Imad Wasim is out and Sami is in ?? This mistake will cost them unles the pitch assists fast bowlers

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