India and Pakistan meet for their mouth-watering first clash of the ICC World Twenty20 on Friday, with both teams searching for early tournament momentum.
Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Commences: Friday, Mar. 21, 2014
Start time: 1:30 p.m. GMT (7:30 p.m. local)
Live on: Sky Sports 2
Weather: The Weather Channel is predicting a fine and very hot day, with the top temperature expected to hit 36 degrees Celsius during the afternoon, before light breezes bring about a slightly cooler evening.
So early in the tournament, yet such a critical encounter. Even without the backdrop of the nations' chequered history, India and Pakistan's early confrontation in this World T20 would hold a great deal of significance.
Undoubtedly, what both teams will be craving is a fast start. In an incredibly tough group that also contains Australia and the West Indies, early points will be critical for both of these team's hopes of progressing.
Like they did in the ICC Champions Trophy last June, India arrive out of form and down on confidence, with questions being asked of their ability and intent when away from the comforts of home soil. You only need to look at the records for that tournament to understand that an Indian team with a chip on its shoulder is a dangerous beast.
Pakistan, meanwhile, arrive at this point with their customary excitement and unpredictability. While their bowling attack is bolstered by perhaps the best spinning brigade in the tournament, the team's enigmatic and sometimes brittle batting line-up will again determine how far they can go.
What's certain is that the victor of this match will walk away feeling confident of progressing, while the defeated outfit will suddenly find themselves playing catch-up.
MS Dhoni (c/wk), Varun Aaron, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.
Mohammad Hafeez (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Bilawal Bhatti, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal (wk), Mohammad Talha, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar.
Players to Watch
No Indian player has been the subject of more intense recent scrutiny than the team's captain MS Dhoni. Thanks to a limited-overs thrashing in South Africa and an abysmal tour to New Zealand, questions are being raised of Dhoni and his capacity to lead India beyond home comforts and to the pinnacle of the game.
After missing the Asia Cup, Dhoni's return will be met with a distinctly different pressure to the one he has typically faced to date.
Rather than carrying a colossal nation's hopes, the captain now finds himself genuinely battling public perception for the first time in his career.
Expect the doubts to draw an intense response from Dhoni, who will look to be decisive with his captaincy and ultra aggressive with the bat.
While bowling is Pakistan's true strength, big totals are what define T20 tournaments. Despite Pakistan's line-up looking potentially explosive, there's also a brittleness to it.
In order to maintain both pace and momentum in their innings, Pakistan will need Mohammad Hafeez to calmly anchor his side and provide a platform for the team's explosive hitters in Sharjeel Khan and Shahid Afridi.
Big matches such as these can often bring about frantic displays from top-order batsmen, resulting in the sort of calamity that sees a team cause its own downfall.
As captain, Hafeez can ensure his side retains a sense of composure with the bat, and provided wickets are in hand, Pakistan could hurt India's under-strength bowling attack in the latter overs.
Following a strong Asia Cup campaign that included a win over India, Pakistan enter this clash with the desired momentum. However, a wounded Indian team with something to prove is a very dangerous proposition.
Where Pakistan have the edge, however, is in familiarity. India have played just five T20Is since the last World T20, whereas Pakistan have played 15.
In a pressure-packed environment, the stability that is built upon the solid understanding of roles and partnerships is critical. While Indian players will point to the IPL as proof of their credentials, the side lacks continuity in playing together in this format, which tips the balance in their opponent's favour.
Consequently, Pakistan should just edge out their fierce rivals.
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