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T20 World Cup: India vs Pakistan key matchups to look out for

India will begin its T20 World Cup with a showdown against Pakistan

Rohit Sharmas battle against Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi could set the tone for the encounter [Source: ICC]

Rohit Sharma's battle against Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi could set the tone for the encounter [Source: ICC]


Anjishnu Roy

Published: 24 Oct 2021 8:00 AM GMT

Team India will begin its T20 World Cup 2021 campaign with what is expected to be a blockbuster clash against arch-rivals Pakistan. This will be the first Group 2 fixture of the Super 12 stage of the competition.

India have faced Pakistan five times before in the T20 World Cup and much like the 50-over World Cups, have an undefeated streak here as well. They've been victorious on all occasions, including the final of the 2007 T20 World Cup where the MS Dhoni-led side lifted its first ICC trophy in this millennium.

Although on the basis of current form, quality, and squad depth, India hold a massive advantage over Pakistan one cannot rule out the latter's ability to be unpredictable and surprise opponents on a given Sunday. Let's take a look at the player battles that could prove to be important in this high-profile encounter:

1. Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi

The Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Afridi battle at the top of the order is likely to set the tone for the rest of the encounter, especially if India gets to bat first. Shaheen Afridi is menacing with the new ball in hand. He can generate a lot of raw pace and can get the ball to swing, assets Trent Boult and Mohammad Amir have used to trouble Sharma in important matches.

Although Hitman has grown to become a more well-rounded player and his performance in red-ball cricket has been proof of that, the opening batsman had a very ordinary IPL 2021 with Mumbai Indians. However, India's white-ball vice-captain appeared to build some momentum after smashing 60 off 41 in the warm-up game against Australia.

Rohit Sharma was in good stride in the warm-up game against Australia [Source: BCCI]

The quick dismissal of Rohit Sharma will ring alarm bells in the same manner as the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. On the other hand, if Hitman manages to withstand the early pressure from Shaheen Afridi, he could go on to give India a commanding position in the game as he did with his century in the 2019 World Cup match against Pakistan.

2. Jasprit Bumrah vs Fakhar Zaman

There's a lot of history at play here when it comes to this match-up. The mind instantly harkens back to the 2017 Champions Trophy Final where Bumrah had appeared to dismiss the Pakistani but he was found to have over-stepped in the replays. Zaman made the most of the new life granted to him and ended up scoring a century that proved to be India's ruin.

Even in their 2019 World Cup encounter, Fakhar Zaman managed to deal with Bumrah with relative ease. He scored a half-century in that game as well but India ended up winning the match by a comfortable margin.

Jasprit Bumrah will be looking to strike big and strike hard in this encounter. After captain Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman's wicket might be the most precious and the Indian pacer would like to have his name beside the dismissal.

3. Virat Kohli vs Shadab Khan

Virat Kohli's recent struggles against spin-bowling have been pretty well documented. The prolific batter has also looked scrappy while changing gears in T20 cricket over the last couple of years. This was also the case in IPL 2021 where the RCB captain failed to up the ante after the Powerplay and ended up falling prey to spinners in the middle overs.

The Pakistan think tank would've taken good note of that and if Shadab Khan, who has taken 58 wickets in 53 games, manages to keep his spell tight and frustrate Virat, he might end up getting him out to a loose shot. However, the Indian captain is known to raise his game in the most high-pressure situations and Kohli loves himself a good knock against Pakistan.

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