With Twenty20 cricket, you can never read too much into the history and a team’s batting or bowling form coming into a fixture. Because it’s really a short game of 40 overs, the definition of a good batting or bowling performance definitely varies. A 20-ball 30 from a batsman and a spell of 4-0-2-30 from a bowler, can often prove to be wonderful, match-winning contributions. And if a team can have two or three batsmen accruing scores of 30 or more, it is often enough to post a total of 150 from 20 overs.
Before they began their ICC World Twenty20 2016 campaign on Tuesday, against New Zealand, India’s run of 10 victories from 11 games was a consequence of at least one or two batsmen in their side scoring those 30s and 40s in almost all their games.
To put this into some sort of a perspective for you, there were eight 30+ scores from Indian batsmen during the Asia Cup. That is an average of 1.6 30+ scores per game. Yes, there were a couple of 80+ scores they chased, to win against Pakistan and United Arab Emirates (UAE). But even in their wins against Bangladesh and Srilanka, against whom India chased challenging totals, they did not have more than two batsmen with 30+ scores. And the 2007 T20 world champions still managed to win quite comfortably. Didn’t they?
Against the Blackcaps, MS Dhoni was the only batsman to make a 30 and he came in to bat after India had slumped to 4/26. Overall, there was no excuse for India failing to chase down 127, though they had to contend with the demons on the Nagpur pitch that some of you might say was too much in favour of the spinners. So the first challenge for India tonight against Pakistan, is for at least a couple of batsmen in their top-order to do what they have been doing since January.
And believe you me, it will definitely not be a gimme. Defending 84 in an Asia Cup game against India in Mirpur, Mohammad Amir and co. made life incredibly difficult for the Indian batsmen. Yes, that was a green top and it is unlikely the pitch at the Eden Gardens will have as much grass on it. However, tonight’s match is going to be played under lights and the Pakistani pace battery is extremely lethal in any conditions. In Amir, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, Pakistan have bowlers who are adept at bowling the fuller length, the back-of-a-length and the short pitch stuff too. Indian batsmen, having mustered a mere 79 against Kane Williamson’s side, will have their task cut out.
Pakistan’s batting is not as strong as their bowling, but you can expect the Pakistan batsmen to be a confident bunch ahead of tonight’s game against the world T20 2016’s hosts. Against a good Bangladeshi bowling attack, they scored 201/5 batting first and had three batsmen – Ahmed Shehzad (52), Mohammad Hafeez (64) and captain Shahid Afridi (49) – making scores well in excess of the par (30) in Twenty20 International (T20I) cricket.
Indian bowling v Pakistan’s batting will be a wonderful tussle to look forward to as well. We cannot overlook the consistently good performances from the Indian bowlers – Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – who have been together and played continuously since the T20I series against Australia in January. They have been an integral part of India winning three trophies so far in this T20 season. Against Pakistan, the Indian spinners might well have to work hard for their wickets. The Men in Green have batsmen who play spin well and are unlikely to fold like the New Zealand batsmen.
In short, India will have to produce a complete performance to register their first win of the sixth edition of the T20 world cup. They were battered by New Zealand, who Cricfooty suggested to being a really formidable side. New Zealand’s performances and victories against Dhoni’s devils and Australia yesterday, have not surprised us at all. India, despite their 100% record in world cup games against Pakistan, will not have it easy tonight.
You can expect India to be psychologically down as well, after the 47-run defeat against New Zealand. When India and Pakistan go up against each other, players from both teams do feel the heat because of the expectations from the fans and the hype created by the media. Having fallen to New Zealand only three nights back, the onus is on India to raise their game and overcome the challenges that Shahid Afridi’s men will pose them with.