India favourites against Pakistan in ICC T20 World Cup clash

India team
India defeated both England and Australia in their warmup matches

India and Pakistan will kick-off their respective campaigns in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 on Sunday evening with a mega clash to be played at the Dubai International Stadium, in what will be the Match No 16 of the T20 tournament. India are certainly the favourites going into the contest but they will have to be wary of an unpredictable and dangerous Pakistani cricket team.

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team is currently placed second in the ICC rankings for teams whereas Pakistan are placed third, which means that a high octane clash is expected on Sunday night when these two Asian arch-rivals meet for the first time after a long gap. The last time India and Pakistan had met on the cricket field was in the ICC World Cup 2019, in which Kohli’s team had produced a one-sided contest to win by 89 runs. 

Pakistan will be hopeful that their batting stars Mohammed Rizwan and Babar Azam fire against India. Rizwan and Babar both have scored more than 500 runs in the shortest format this year and are leading the batting charts globally. As a team, Pakistan have done well by winning 9 out of their 17 matches which also include some of the washed out matches in the Caribbean that they had to endure. On the other hand, India have played only 8 matches so far in 2021 from which they have 4 victories and as many defeats.

While Pakistan have the likes of Rizwan and Azam along with senior players in Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik to look up to, India have a strong squad to pick from and there will certainly be selection headaches for the team management. India wicket-keeper batsman Ishan Kishan made a vital half-century against England in the warmup match but he is likely to remain on the bench for the contest against Pakistan. 

India will be hoping that their batting stars in KL Rahul as well as Rohit Sharma fire at the top, provided by some strong support from the others in Kohli at No 3, followed by Rishabh Pant and Suryakumar Yadav. It remains to be seen if India decide to go ahead with Hardik Pandya as a sole batsman and not an all-rounder since he has not bowled enough so far. India also are yet to decide on the spin bowling option in Ravichandran Ashwin, with other contenders being Rahul Chahar and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy who both had decent outings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 tournament.

Apart from this being a clash between arch rivals, there will be some extra motivation for the Indian team given that this is the last tournament for Kohli as the captain of the national team in the shortest format. Kohli has announced already that irrespective of India’s fate in the competition, he will be stepping down from the role of captain at the end.

India have usually dominated Pakistan in ICC tournaments and the story in the shortest format is no different. India have won 4 out of the last 5 matches these two teams have played, while overall they have 6 wins from 8 matches against Pakistan.