• Tuesday, December 05, 2023

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Pakistan target ending World Cup jinx against India

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

BUOYED by a record run chase, Babar Azam’s Pakistan are on the hunt for their first ever World Cup win over India in Saturday’s (14) blockbuster match between cricket’s biggest rivals in a 132,000-capacity arena patrolled by 11,000 police officers.

India and Pakistan are bitter adversaries and only play against each other in multilateral tournaments due to longstanding political tensions.

Any meeting between them always raises fan interest with millions watching around the globe in a bonanza for broadcasters and sponsors.

Fans desperate to watch the match have even booked beds in city hospital wards after hotels ran out of rooms.

By signing up for health check-ups and overnight stays in private hospitals, the accommodation has proved a cheaper option with some hotels hiking rates by as much as 10 times.

Both teams remain unbeaten coming into the match at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium, named for the Indian prime minister.

This is Pakistan’s first match after their record World Cup chase of 345 against Sri Lanka, with wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan scoring an unbeaten 131 and Abdullah Shafique making 113.

“We now have momentum,” Rizwan said after his man of the match show in Hyderabad. “But they will also come with a plan, we will also come with a plan.”

Pakistan boast a fiery bowling attack led by left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi but they still conceded 344 runs to Sri Lanka on Tuesday (10).

Security concerns saw the match brought forward a day from its original date, which coincided with a major Hindu festival in the city.

Authorities are deploying 11,000 police officers to keep order – around one for every 11 spectators in the event of a full house.

The match is sold out with media reporting that scalpers are asking for eight times the original price for tickets.

India came into the World Cup as the top-ranked ODI team and lived up to the billing of tournament favourites with a six-wicket win over five-time winners Australia.

They are fresh from their eight-wicket thrashing of Afghanistan after skipper Rohit Sharma smashed a record seventh World Cup century on Wednesday (11).

But Rohit played down the hype around the tournament’s most anticipated fixture.

“For us it’s crucial that we don’t worry about external factors and just look at things we can control,” Rohit said after his blistering 131 in New Delhi.

“We just need to show up and do well. Things like what the pitch is like, what combo we can play is what we can control. What happens outside, we won’t be worried about it.”

National pride

Top-ranked ODI batsman Azam is yet to fire and has scores of five and 10 in Pakistan’s two victories.

Pakistan have never won against India in the World Cup in their seven outings since 1992.

Their previous loss was by 89 runs in a rain-hit league match of the 2019 edition in Manchester.

India remain behind in their overall ODI head-to-heads against Pakistan with 56 wins and 73 losses but have clearly been the stronger team in recent meetings.

Rohit’s men hammered Pakistan by 228 runs in their Asia Cup Super Four clash last month and went on to win the regional tournament.

Top Indian batsmen have been among the runs in the two victories at the World Cup so far with Virat Kohli hitting 85 and KL Rahul an unbeaten 97 against Australia.

Kohli then made an undefeated 55 in the win over Afghanistan.

Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah’s 4-39 on Wednesday gave the Indian bowling unit a boost ahead of Saturday’s match.

Journalists from Pakistan have arrived in India for the match after delays in their visa approvals saw them miss the team’s opening two games.

(AFP)

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