Desert Duel: Can Rohit’s India Buck The Trend Vs Afridi-Less Pakistan?

India vs Pakistan. It’s a cricketing rivalry which dwarfs even the 145-year-old England versus Australia Ashes contests.

Such is the mass following, patriotic fervour and adrenaline rush that engulfs the two nations every time they battle on a cricket pitch, the rivalry transcends sport and takes the shape of a battle without the bullets. It’s almost as if 22 men are prepared to lay down their lives on the field to defend their motherland against the enemy.

Since they first crossed swords in a Test match at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla in October 1952, India and Pakistan have contested 200 matches across all formats. And it’s our neighbours from across the border who hold the edge with 87 wins, compared to 70 Indian victories.

And when it comes to their desert duels, the head-to-head stats are even more skewed in Pakistan’s favour. The first-ever meeting between the two teams in the United Arab Emirates — an ODI in the inaugural Asia Cup on April 13, 1984 — went India’s way. But since then, Pakistan have held sway.

Javed Miandad’s legendary last-ball 6 off Chetan Sharma — with Pakistan 9 wickets down and needing 4 runs to win on April 18, 1986 — not only handed Imran Khan’s team the Austral-Asia Cup, it also deflated the Indian morale to such an extent that they kept getting psyched out time and again when they faced the men in green in the UAE.

In 29 clashes in the Middle-East, Pakistan have won as many as 20 of those, including the only T20 International the teams have contested in the desert – during last year’s T20 World Cup.

That was a nightmare which the Virat Kohlis and Rohit Sharmas would like to erase from their memory bank as Pakistan raced to a 10-wicket victory to beat India for the first time in any ICC World Cup event.

A lot has altered in Indian cricket in the 10 intervening months. The captaincy has changed hands, with Rohit firmly in the saddle now, whereas Virat faces some internal demons as he looks to break free from a lean patch which has persisted far too long for his and the team’s comfort.

Virat Kohli
Pic courtesy Twitter/BCCI

Can Rohit lead from the front at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday night and help the men in blue buck the trend?

The Indians will surely take heart from the fact that Pakistan can’t avail the services of injured Shaheen Shah Afridi in Asia Cup. The left-arm pacer almost singlehandedly dismantled India in the T20 World Cup encounter at the same venue last October. His ability to swing the ball both ways at decent speed helped Afridi dismiss openers Rohit and KL Rahul in his first 2 overs, before also accounting for top-scorer Kohli to restrict India’s total.

Pakistan will also be without young pacer Mohammad Wasim Jr, who picked up an injury during practice three days ago. India’s top five – likely to be Rohit, Rahul, Virat, Surya Kumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant — will relish the prospect of facing a depleted Pakistan attack, but they must not get complacent.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Pic courtesy Twitter/BCCI

One must also remember that like Pakistan, India will be without their most potent bowler — Jasprit Bumrah. The experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal will have their task cut out in containing Pakistani captain and Mr Consistent Babar Azam, who has been scoring tonnes of runs in all formats.

Young Arshdeep Singh, one of the finds from IPL, could turn out to be the X-factor as the Pakistani batsmen haven’t faced the accurate left-arm pacer before.

Not to forget the rejuvenated Hardik Pandya, who can change the course of a game — either with his nippy medium-pace or power hitting in the death overs.



Tests – 59 played, India won 9, Pakistan won 12, drawn 38

ODIs – 132 played, India won 55, Pakistan won 73, No-result 4

T20Is – 9 played, India won 6, Pakistan won 2, No-result 1

Total – 200 played, India won 70, Pakistan won 87, Drawn 43


50-over World Cup – 7 played, India won 7, Pakistan 0

T20 World Cup – 6 played, India won 4, Pakistan won 1, No-result 1

Total – 13 played, India won 11, Pakistan won 1, No-result 1


ODIs – 28 played, India won 9, Pak won 19

T20Is – 1 played, Pak won.

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