Ravi Shastri picks key players for India, Pakistan clash

Former cricketer Ravi Shastri pinpointed key players from both sides ahead of the clash

Ravi Shastri picks key players for India, Pakistan clash PHOTO: ICC

India and Pakistan’s meeting in Ahmedabad on Saturday 14 October is arguably the most anticipated match of the group stage of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, and Indian legend Ravi Shastri has pinpointed one key battle of the match.

Shastri, who coached the India team as recently as 2021, says that the result of the high-profile encounter could hinge on one crucial new-ball match-up.

“I think Shaheen Shah Afridi against the Indian openers (is important),” Shastri said.

“It’s a given that that’s going to be the test, that it’s going to be the challenge. Whoever wins that will go a long way towards dictating terms in that game.”

It is little wonder that Shastri believes Afridi’s new-ball threat to be key, given that he was India's head coach when the left-arm quick ripped out both of India’s openers at the start of the dramatic meeting between the two nations at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

Afridi had Rohit Sharma trapped in front for a golden duck off just the fourth ball of that match, and Shastri feels that Rohit’s performance, as well as that of Virat Kohli, will be crucial to India’s fortunes throughout this tournament.

“I think at the top, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be key. If they both get going and one gets a hundred, I emphasise that 300, 320, 330, that is very much a possibility," Shastri noted.

“Similarly, from Pakistan’s point of view, I think in this game, again it will be at the top. You want their captain to fire. Babar Azam has not had a great run of late, but if he starts firing, getting that 80-100 early doors in the tournament, it’ll make his job as a captain a lot easier.”

It’s not just Afridi who captures Shastri’s attention with the ball, with the 61-year-old naming the bowling partnerships he expects to impress the most as this World Cup continues.

“I think Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, because we know Bumrah is an x-factor, and if he gets it right he’ll be a thrill to watch. And Siraj I think has come of age. He’s one of the most improved bowlers in world cricket, and can do wonderful things with the ball, it comes naturally to him. He can swing it, he can seam it, he’s got a great seam presentation. So I think these two will be great to watch if they’re on song.

“Similarly I would say Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf. Different bowlers, one will swing it, the other will hit the deck at pace. That will be an exciting combination because both can strike at any given stage of an innings – they can strike at the top, they can strike in the middle overs, and they can strike at the death.

But Shastri has the home side as the favourites to take the two points in Ahmedabad.

“Playing at home, just seeing man-for-man, I think India is a stronger side and they start off as favourites," Shastri added.