Photo Credit: Pakistan Cricket Board
The most-anticipated fixture of this iteration of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup is upon us. Billions of cricket fans from around the world will tune in to watch great rivals, Pakistan and India, play at the biggest cricket stadium, the Narendra Modi Stadium, on Saturday.
The contest will mark the first instance of Pakistan and India playing a One-Day International against each other on Indian soil after 10 years. Their last bilateral meeting resulted in Pakistan defeating the hosts 2-1.
Both the sides enter this contest after wins in their opening matches. India beat Australia in Chennai and Afghanistan in Delhi and Pakistan signed off their memorable trip to Hyderabad by recording the highest-ever chase in the history of World Cup, thanks to gutsy centuries from Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan, on Tuesday. Babar Azam’s side kicked off their World Cup campaign with a comfortable 81-run win over the Netherlands.
Hasan Ali, who played the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 and the 2019 iteration of the 50-over World Cup, told PCB Digital on the eve of the contest that starting the tournament with back to back wins has lifted the team’s confidence.
“Efforts like the record chase against Sri Lanka, boost the morale of a side,” Hasan, who is also Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker with six scalps at an average of 17.33, said. “There were some fantastic individual and collective performances against the Netherlands and Sri Lanka. When you start a tournament with consecutive wins, it boosts your confidence.”
In a high-scoring match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Hasan was the pick of the bowlers from either side with the figures of four for 71 in 10 overs. He removed Kusal Perera in his first over – the second of the innings – and returned in the middle-overs to dismiss Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka in consecutive overs before uprooting Sadeera Samarawickrama at the death. Sri Lanka cruised at a handsome run rate and threatened to post a daunting total, but that they were not able to was because of Hasan’s exploits.
“We were aware of the fact that the pitch was flat and it will be a high-scoring match,” Hasan recalled. “Credit goes to how aggressively Sadeera [Samarawickrama] and [Kusal] Mendis played and pushed us on the back foot. The only way to put them under pressure was by taking their wickets. When I returned to bowl in my second spell, I planned according to the field setting. I used variations at the right time and got the important wicket of Mendis followed by another in the next over. When you take wickets, you stem the flow of runs and we made a good comeback in the game by not giving away many runs in the death overs.”
That he has the experience of bowling in high-pressure environments also played a role.
“The six, seven years’ experience of international cricket obviously helps you and you try to utilise it in an important tournament such as this,” he said. “Being a senior player, there is extra pressure in World Cup. You are always slightly nervous when you enter the ground, but, as an experienced player, it does not take long to become used to the situation. I kept myself relaxed and just focused on my plans.”
Such is the magnitude of a Pakistan v India contest that both countries come to a virtual standstill. Fans, not only in the two countries but also across the world, gear up to watch the two sides lock horns. How excited does it make Hasan?
“This is the best [sporting] rivalry in the world,” Hasan said. “Many players have already spoken about how everyone around the globe tunes into this match. The team is excited for this game, and so am I to play at a venue hosting fans in excess of 100,000. We are looking forward to the game.”
Though Pakistan enjoy a positive win/loss ratio over India, they are yet to defeat them in a 50-over World Cup match. Responding on whether that streak would have an impact, Hasan said: “Records are meant to be broken and we too are looking forward to breaking this jinx of not having beaten India in a 50-over World Cup.
“It is India who will be under pressure as it is their home ground with fans turning up to support them. There is always pressure in a big game like this but we will try to gain momentum early in the proceedings and win the contest.”