When the Indian cricket team take on Pakistan in champions trophy final on Sunday at the Kenningston Oval, they start only marginally ahead of their neighbors and arch rivals, even though won by a huge margin of 124 runs in their opening match of the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston on July 4. Pakistan have since recovered, with their stellar bowling performances helping them win all of their subsequent matches, including the last one against England where they won convincingly by 8 wickets in a sort of upset, considering England were on a roll winning all of their previous matches of the tournament, and Pakistan had entered the tournament placed No.8 on the ODI standings. The team, led by Sarfaraz Ahmad, poses quite a threat to the Indian team when they face off on Sunday. We list here some of the possible things the Indian team will have to watch out for as they get ready to defend their crown under captain Virat Kohli.
1 Hasan Ali, Pakistan’s main bowling weapon this tournament :
The tactic of using the pacer in the middle overs has paid off in the tournament, as his arsenal of variations and in-swingers has kept him in the wickets throughout. Against England in the semifinals, it was Hasan Ali who precipitated a batting collapse that ultimately caused the home team to crash to a paltry score of 211. Indian batsmen will have to chalk out a strategy to face Hasan, who has 10 wickets (the most) in the tournament.
Pace attack duo of Junaid Khan and Aamir Khan :
Aamir Khan passed a fitness test yesterday, and has been cleared to play in the finals. He missed out the semi-finals due to a back spasm. Indian batsmen have always struggled against Aamir’s vicious swing bowling, and together with Junaid Khan, the duo possess enough firepower to run through any batting order in the world. This was on display amply against Sri Lanka in the league match, and India will guard against a similar fate. Skipper Kohli will be especially wary of Junaid, who has dismissed the star Indian batsman three times, with only 2 runs off 22 balls in ODIs.
Sarfaraz Ahmad, as the MS Dhoni of Pakistan :
As Misbah-ul-Haq pointed out, Pakistani skipper Sarfaraz Ahmad resembles legendary Indian captain and glover Dhoni in temperament. His match saving 61 against Sri Lanka held the brittle Pakistani batting together, and his captaincy has been spot on since his loss to India.
Indian pace attack:
In Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, India seemed to have found two quality pacers who could swing the ball and produce variations to get early wickets, important for any team’s success. However, their ineffectiveness against Sri Lanka, where they failed to break partnerships repeatedly, is a worry for India, who got their breaks in the Bangladesh game through Kedhar Jadhav and not the regular bowlers. The Indian bowling is a definite worry for India, and they know they have to fully exploit the brittle and under-confident Pakistani batting order if they have to stand a chance in the game.
India will no doubt walk into the game as heavy favorites, and they will have to guard against complacency, as Pakistan can be lethal on their day, and unpredictability is something that the Pakistanis have always got going for them.