Asia Cup 2014: Breaking Down Huge India vs. Pakistan Showdown

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

India’s Virat Kohli, left, and Shikhar Dhawan run between the wickets during  the Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament against Sri Lanka in Fatullah, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

The New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox in baseball. Duke versus North Carolina in college basketball. Michigan versus Ohio State in football. Canada versus the United States in women's hockey. Barcelona versus Real Madrid in European soccer.

All are huge, famous rivalries. Most of them pale in comparison to India versus Pakistan in cricket.

While the other countries in the Asia Cup might take umbrage with the following notion, let's be honest—it's all about India taking on Pakistan at the tournament. Everyone is excited to see one of the best rivalries in sport play out once more.

Of course, both teams will go into Sunday's showdown having been beaten by Sri Lanka, which defeated Pakistan by 12 runs to open the tournament and followed that up by knocking off India by two wickets on Friday.

Might India have been guilty of looking ahead to a clash with their hated rivals? Perhaps, or perhaps Sri Lanka is simply on a hot streak at the moment. Pakistan, to their credit, responded to their loss well, defeating Afghanistan by 72 runs on Thursday.

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

All eyes in the cricket world will be affixed on Mirpur on Sunday. Emmad Hameed of The Express Tribune previews the match:

The mental strength, conviction and hunger of the men in green would be severely tested again on March 2, as in recent years, India has emerged as a more confident team in these nerve-wracking ties. Pakistan’s world class bowling attack will have to be at its very best to stem the flow of runs. Umar Gul, still easing his way back to top-flight cricket, will have to lead the attack with full intensity. Junaid Khan has a psychological edge over [Virat] Kohli after having dismissed him on all three occasions in the bilateral ODI series last year.

The Indian bowlers, on the other hand, would seek to capitalise on the frailty of Pakistan batsmen and it remains to be seen how the likes of Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood and Ahmad Shehzad fare in their first ODI against the greatest rivals.

But all permutations are set to fall by the wayside come the start of the match. An India-Pakistan encounter is often won more in the mind than on the field, with the skills, ability and technical play often being superseded by those willing to put their mind over matter.

Everyone, including the players, is excited for this contest. Pakistan's captain had the following to say about the rivalry, per the Agence France-Presse (via The Cricket Country):

Its always a big challenge playing against India because there is so much interest in the game. India are a formidable side and we have to be at our best to win.”

We may not have played each other much recently, but I know it will be an exciting match.

Pakistan, of course, are the defending Asia Cup champions. Of course, it's important to note that India have won the most Asia Cup titles of any country, with five titles in 11 tournaments.

The defending champions will like their chances without MS Dhoni available for India, out to an injury. And India came into the Asia Cup on questionable form, having lost their last four series, including losses to England and New Zealand. 

But Pakistan was also tested by Afghanistan, a foe much less formidable than India. With neither team looking their best thus far at the Asia Cup, it's hard to get a full read on how this one will play out. After all, when India and Pakistan meet, anything can happen.

Look for Pakistan to earn the tightest of all victories, in another memorable match in one of sport's most heated rivalries.