India v Pakistan at the T20 World Cup: The key battles

Group 2’s opening weekend will see the arch-rivals meet in Melbourne, with some of the world’s best T20I players set to be on show at the MCG

India v Pakistan at the T20 World Cup: The key battles PHOTO: ICC

The mouth-watering encounter between India and Pakistan threatens to deliver fireworks at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022.

Group 2’s opening weekend will see the arch-rivals meet in Melbourne, with some of the world’s best T20I players set to be on show at the MCG.

Here we take a look at some of the biggest match-ups in an encounter that could go a long way towards deciding the make-up of the semi-finalists.

Shaheen Afridi v KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma

India’s opening batters will have had sleepless nights about their last meeting with Pakistan at a T20 World Cup.

It took just seven deliveries for Shaheen Afridi to dismiss both Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in one of the most famous spells of T20 bowling the world has seen.

A wicked inswinger had Rohit heading back to the dugout without troubling the scoreboard, before another delicious delivery shaped back in and castled Rahul’s stumps at the start of the third over.

India never really recovered, and it was no fluke from Afridi – his record in the Powerplay is outstanding throughout his T20I career.

Should India’s openers see off Shaheen, then a big score may be on the cards.

India’s death bowlers vs Asif Ali

The role of Asif Ali as a powerful finisher has been much discussed in recent times, but he’s a proven force in the latter stages of an innings and could do significant damage, particularly in the bouncier Australian conditions.

In the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, India’s tactics at the death are slightly less clear. In an ideal world it would be Bumrah who took at least two of the final five overs of an innings, but that job could now fall to Mohammed Shami and his yorker-heavy strategy.

If he hits those yorkers, as he did in the warm-up game against Australia, then things should go well for India. But the margin for error is exceptionally small against a hitter like Asif Ali. It will be a fascinating watch.

Suryakumar Yadav v Shadab Khan

India’s middle-order sensation is the form T20 batter in the world right now, and could hold the key to their chances in Australia.

One of the beauties of Yadav’s game is that he is a genuine 360 batter against both pace and spin, and he will have Pakistan’s key spinner in his sights.

Shadab Khan typically keeps things tight through the middle overs for Pakistan, building pressure and delivering plenty of wickets – 87 in 73 innings in T20Is at a strike rate of 18.8.

Pakistan aren’t used to seeing Shadab go for runs, but if anyone is capable of taking him down then it will be India’s number four.

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan v Bhuvneshwar Kumar

It is no secret that Pakistan’s batting strength is built on the backs of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan.

The pair have made themselves comfortable at the top of the MRF ICC T20I Player Rankings for a number of years now, with Rizwan going into the T20 World Cup in top spot and Babar in third, with India’s Yadav separating the two.

Volume of runs is not an issue for the pair, and if they go big it can be a big problem for opponents. Their batting record together is fearsome – five times they have put on 150 runs or more as a partnership in T20 international matches, most recently their astonishing 203-run opening stand to beat England just a month ago.

Get one of Babar or Rizwan out early and you are in with a chance against Pakistan and, in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India have the sort of Powerplay specialist who can cause the openers some real issues.

Bhuvi’s ability to extract movement in the opening overs could put Pakistan under significant pressure, and while the rest of the Pakistan batting line-up is strong, they are accustomed to going big on a platform set by the consistent top two. Remove that platform and you are halfway towards stopping Pakistan.