HomeSportsCricketIND v PAK, T20 World Cup 2021: Kohli Looking to Leave a...

IND v PAK, T20 World Cup 2021: Kohli Looking to Leave a Legacy; Babar in Process of Building One

In Dubai India v Pakistan T20 World Cup tickets that were originally sold for 70 UAE dirhams (about 1400 rupees) are changing hands for 9000 dirhams, or about 1,8 lakh rupees on match eve. Virat Kohli has already said at least once that even he has no tickets to spare, something Babar Azam has echoed vociferously.

In India, at least 75 movie theatres are screening the match, with cheerleaders in place and staff kitted out in cricket gear, and have already sold out. Restaurant and bar owners hammered by the closures forced by the Covid-19 pandemic are cheering the day, for bumper pre-bookings and pre-pandemic prices. In nearby Sharjah, bookies are gearing up for their biggest day in a long time.

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While the World Cup itself is a massive event for under-the-table betting, the India-Pakistan match is expected to generate more action than even the final, unless, of course, the same two teams meet again later. Coming to the actual cricket, both captains have understandably called for calm.

Kohli was emphatic in saying that he has always considered the Pakistan game just another match and continues to do so. “It’s very important for us to keep focused because, with a game like this, there’s such unnecessary stuff from a professional point of view happening on the outside,” said Virat Kohli a day before the match. “It’s fine, as long as that stays outside our controlled environment and we just focus on what we need to do as cricketers. I always maintain that for me it’s never been different to any other game of cricket that we play. Yes, the atmosphere in the stadium is different, but our mindset is no different, our preparations are no different, and our approach to the game is also certainly no different.”

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Azam spoke of the “intensity” in any clash against India, saying: “We have forgotten what we have done in the past and we are trying to focus on the future. We will try to do better on the field in this match and we will try to produce better results.” What he was referring to as the past, of course, is India’s 7-0 record against Pakistan in 50-over World Cup matches and their 5-0 record in Twenty20 World Cup matches.

For the two captains, the pressure from their fans is the same.

Kohli comes into this encounter protecting a proud record in global tournaments, and in his last stint as leader of the team in the shorter formats, the last thing he wants is to pick up the unwanted record of being the first Indian captain to lose to Pakistan in a World Cup match. This, more than anything else, will be on the minds of fans, even as Kohli insists that he and his team are not influenced by any noise from outside their closely guarded team bubble.

But, from a cricketing point of view, Kohli will be only too aware of the challenge on hand. India have a squad of gun players to choose from, most of whom come into this tournament on the back of strong showings in the IPL. However, having plenty to pick from, and finding the right balance are two different things. Kohli said that India had worked out their best combination, but stopped short of revealing what that was.

In truth, India have the first three of their batting pinned down, but a lot of uncertainty after. Not necessarily in a bad way. They have to ask themselves whether they want to leave out an in-form Ishan Kishan, who did so much more for the Mumbai Indians than Hardik Pandya. Pandya, however, has the X-factor that Kohli so loves in the shortest format, and was Man of the Series when India played a T20 series in Australia.

If Pandya was fit enough to bowl, there would be no conversation around his playing. But, even as a pure batter, Kohli insisted that Pandya was a sure starter. In the spin department, Ravindra Jadeja will have Varun Chakravarthy for the company, but there is no clear indication of whether India are contemplating more spin options at this stage. In the fast bowling stakes, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is invaluable for the way he starts games, but Mohammad Shami is a stronger candidate to bowl at any time in the innings.

When you look at the combinations possible and the players vying for a chance to shine, India have a good headache at the moment. Kohli, a seasoned enough campaigner as leader of this Indian team, will believe that he has what he needs to make the right choices, in consultation with Ravi Shastri, the coach, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni the short-term mentor.

In contrast, Azam is still young as captain. His class as a batter is undeniable, and while his name is taken whenever the top batter in the current game are discussed, he is yet to build the same kind of portfolio as Kohli. There is no doubt he will get there in the end. Also, in variance from Kohli, Azam was happy to name the 12 players in line to play the India match. This means that the think tank has a clear idea of what their combination would be.

This settled approach could help calm nerves ahead of a massive encounter, with players knowing exactly where they stand with respect to the game. When the teams take the field though, the first few overs will be nervy on both sides. Whoever settles down quicker and holds their nerve longest will give themselves the best chance of succeeding in a game on which so much rides. Kohli is looking to leave a legacy as T20 captain, and Azam is in the process of building one.

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