Asia Cup 2023 is set to begin on 30 August. India are bookmakers’ favourites to win the tournament which will be an ODI competition this time around. Both Pakistan and hosts Sri Lanka would want to prove the bookmakers wrong. In our view, Pakistan could pose the bigger challenge.
Pakistan Have Won Only 3 of Their Last 10 Versus India
Of the last 10 ODI matches between India and Pakistan, India have won 7, while Pakistan have won 3. India have won the last 3 matches between the sides. Pakistan’s last win came at the Oval in the Champions League final in June 2017. Their previous win came three years earlier in Mirpur in March 2014 in a group match of the Asia Cup. Prior to that, Pakistan won at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in January 2013, on Pakistan’s tour of India. What was common to those three wins? On all three occasions, Pakistan’s batting made the difference. In the remaining 7 matches, Pakistan averaged just 187 with the bat, with a highest score of 237. On four of those occasions, they failed to get to 200.
In Kolkata, Pakistan batted first and scored 250. Most of those runs came from openers Nasir Jamshed (106) and Md Hafeez (76). Pakistan’s bowlers proceeded to bowl out India for 165. The Indian batting order boasted the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag, Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina, and Dhoni. Pakistan’s pacemen Junaid Khan (3/39) and Umar Gul (2/24) did the most damage, with spinner Saeed Ajmal (3/20) chipping in.
In Mirpur, India batted first and posted a score of 245/8, on the back of half centuries by Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja. When Pakistan batted, their openers came them a great start with a stand of 71. However, from a comfortable position of 1/93 in the 15th over, they slumped to 4/113. A rescue job by Md Hafeez and Sohaib Maqsood took them to a commanding position of 4/200 in the 44th over. Then came another slump that saw the scorecard reduced to 9/236 with five balls to go. Needing nine off the last two balls, Shahid Afridi hit successive sixes to take his side home.
The Oval, 2017
At the Oval, Pakistan batted first and piled up 338/4 thanks to opener Fakhar Zaman’s 114 from 106 balls. He was supported by his opening partner Azhar Ali who made 59 in an opening stand of 128. Babar Azam (46) and Md Hafeez (57 n.o.) also contributed. When India batted, Pakistan’s pacers got rid of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli within the first four overs. A regular fall of wickets saw India slump to 6/72. An 84-run stand between Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja raised visions of a heroic win for India. However, Hardik’s run out following a silly mix up was the beginning of the end. In the process, India were bowled out for 158.
The last time these sides met was in the 2019 World Cup. Batting first, India powered their way to 336/5. The Pakistan bowlers found Rohit Sharma (140 from 113 balls) and Kohli (77 from 65) too hot to handle. When Pakistan batted, they lost the early wicket of Imam-ul-Haq before Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam got into the rescue act. They took the score to 1/117 in the 24th over before Babar Azam departed. However, the run rate was well below the required level. A revised target of 302 in 40 overs — following a rain intervention — proved too steep and India won by 89 runs.
What has Changed Since the 2019 ODI World Cup?
Since that game, both sides have witnessed many changes. The current Indian team has Sharma, Kohli, and Hardik Pandya who featured in that match. Pakistan have Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, and Shadab Khan who represented them in that game.
India’s batting has grown stronger in some areas and weaker in others. The rise of Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan augur well. However, the absence of a reliable number four batter in the middle order is the team’s greatest worry. India would want KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer to return to match fitness though there’s very little time left. Young Lalit Varma who had a sensational T20I debut in the West Indies could be the answer. The bowling will be poorer for the lack of Bumrah. Shami and Siraj are capable pacemen. Shardul Thakur and Hardik Pandya can bowl 10 overs between them. However, it’s not clear which spinner will assist Jadeja.
Pakistan have rebuilt themselves in both batting and bowling departments. The likes of Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, M Rizwan, Agha Salman and Iftikhar Ahmed gave a good account of themselves in the recent home series versus New Zealand. The bowling in the hands of Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Rauf, and Shadab Khan appears stronger than ever.
So, will Pakistan beat India? The teams are better matched now than they have been at any other time in the last 10 years. The right question to ask would be, can Pakistan hold their nerve against India? The result will be an important indicator of how both India and Pakistan will stand ahead of the ODI World Cup later this year.