Big Picture – Can the teams shut out the noise?
It turned out to be the match of the tournament, and perhaps for many of the fans, their lives. As people made a beeline for the exit at 3am, more than 30 hours after the match was scheduled to have begun, several were still revelling in the festivities that followed that emotional roller-coaster of a final.
Ahmedabad was the epicentre of Indian cricket that night, and the promise of a similar occasion, perhaps even grander, later in the year for a match they were all sure would be held in Ahmedabad, excited them.
That grand occasion is nearly here.
On Saturday, Ahmedabad won’t just be the epicentre of Indian cricket, but world cricket, with 132,000 people – a decent chunk being celebrities, industrialists, politicians, friends of politicians and, of course, cricket administrators – congregating at what they say is the world’s biggest cricket stadium to witness a match that makes the cricket economy – bilateral non-relations notwithstanding.
Welcome to instalment eight of India vs Pakistan at men’s 50-over World Cups. Depending on whether you plan to sport blue or green on the day, you probably feel like gloating over that unmatched record or need no reminding of the duck you hope will become “ek-saath”. In literal terms, that means “together” – like administrators from both sides who spar at boardrooms and in the media will be – but in this cricketing context, it refers to the scoreline that Pakistani fans, and the players, will hope for at the end of the night: 1-7.
In a nutshell that’s the essence of India vs Pakistan.
India WWLWW (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Jasprit Bumrah and Abdullah Shafique
Team news: Shubman Gill very much in the picture
It can also be quite tempting to play Mohammed Shami, given his IPL record here. Also, pacers have bowled a bigger percentage of overs than spinners (59.8% versus 40.2%) and have more wickets (38 to spin’s 23) in ODIs here since 2021. But the team management leans towards having some batting cushion at No. 8, which none of their frontline pacers provide. So, for now, it could be another opportunity for Shardul Thakur.
India: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Ishan Kishan/Shubman Gill, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Mohammed Siraj
Pakistan have little reason to change a combination that worked wonders for them against Sri Lanka. There’s just a one small concern. While Hasan Ali picked up four wickets, he did get taken for plenty. If they are looking for a change, there’s Mohammad Wasim waiting in the wings.
Pakistan: 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Ifthikhar Ahmed, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Shaheen Afridi, 10 Hasan Ali/Mohammad Wasim, 11 Haris Rauf
Pitch and conditions
Hot and dry on the weather front. There could be some dew later in the evening, which will also mean the team batting first will want to go hard. It’s a black soil surface, next to the one that played host to the tournament opener where New Zealand’s top order made merry. As such, it should be a belter of a surface for the organisers want to make it a spectacle in every sense.
Stats and trivia
- Rohit Sharma has been out five times in 13 innings against left-arm pace in the powerplay since 2021. It’s all then set up for another exciting round of Rohit vs Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“I don’t focus too much on what has happened in the past and focus on what’s coming ahead. These records are made to be broken and we will try to break it.”
Babar Azam on Pakistan’s winless run against India in ODI World Cups
“All the guys are quite used to playing in front of big crowds. It can only work in your favour. It cannot work against you. A lot of the guys in the team love a big crowd, the cheers, the noise in the ground. The boys really enjoy it.”
Rohit Sharma on India dealing with the pressure of expectations of a potentially massive home crowd
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo