Defending champions India's Asia Cup campaign got off to a choppy start after they were given an unexpectedly tough fight by minnows Hong Kong. After restricting India for 286/7, Hong Kong threatened to pull off an upset, reaching 174/0 before a collapse saw them finish at 259/8. The loss for Hong Kong meant they bowed out of the competition and India secured their passage into the Super Four of the tournament joining Pakistan and Bangladesh.
India now locks horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in their final group-stage match, and they will need to pull off a far better performance to get the better of their opponents. Every clash between these two countries raises decibels and stakes, and this match will be no different. The last time these two teams met was in the final of Champions Trophy 2017, where the Men in Green (Pakistan) beat Men in Blue (India) by 180 runs.
Since the finale, the two nations haven't faced each other in any form, hence, the fixture in the upcoming Asia Cup became a much-awaited affair. When the players from the two teams step on the field on the atmosphere is expected to be hostile. On the eve of this headline fixture, Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed set the tempo for the match by insisting there was a junoon'' (passion) to perform against India.
He said: “So the junoon is there and you get a hope that against India you've to perform ... it has happened in the past as well, whichever player it is – whether from India or Pakistan – he becomes a hero in the eyes of his fans.”
However, the mood in the Indian camp is far more different with stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma insisting that there is no pressure and the team is relaxed ahead of the fixture. Sharma pulled out a cliched quote insisting 'we treat all oppositions equally' ahead of facing Hong Kong, which preceded the 'big clash'.
"Obviously, it's a big match but we will think about the game only after the match against Hong Kong," the Indian skipper said on Monday.
Though, with previous India-Pakistan matches have always been high-voltage affairs, you can expect more of the same when these two sides step on the field today. From India's point of view, the Men in Blue have a great chance of getting the better of their rivals if Shikhar Dhawan maintains his red-hot form at the top of the batting order. Debutant bowler Khaleel Ahmed will be looking to build on the performance from his previous game. While Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, who are proven match-winners, will back themselves to score important runs.