T20 World Cup: Crestfallen Pakistan face India with focus on unpredictable New York pitch

Toss could be decisive factor as Pakistan look to bounce back from Super Over defeat to USA

Pakistan's Iftikhar Ahmed hits a boundary during Super Over loss to USA. AP
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The odds are heavily stacked against Pakistan as they take on India in the T20 World Cup in New York on Sunday, though they were given a boost on the eve of the game after allrounder Imad Wasim was declared fit to play.

Pakistan's campaign got off to a disastrous start with a Super Over defeat to co-hosts USA. India, meanwhile, ran out comfortable winners over Ireland.

India have first-hand knowledge of the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium following their eight-wicket win over the Irish on Wednesday.

The ground has hosted four World Cup matches so far – all low-scoring encounters – and there are concerns over the state of the pitch. India captain Rohit Sharma retired hurt after a blow to the arm on his way to compiling 52 runs off 37 balls.

The unpredictable bounce and slow outfield have made it difficult for batters. Winning the toss could be a deciding factor, with the team batting second likely to have the advantage.

Rohit said it was vital his team kept their focus on the fundamentals and not worry about the wicket or the occasion.

"I think playing good cricket holds the key no matter the opposition. With the pitch, I think you know what to expect from the conditions, so you've got to prepare yourself in a way that you know these types of conditions are there," he said.

"We have spoken about it, about what we need to do on these types of conditions. We have had lengthy chats with individuals about what the game plan can be for the batters and the bowlers as well. You can try to control what is in your control.

"There is a lot of experience in our changing room. So, when you come across conditions like these, I expect everyone to at least try and make good decisions. Again, we are going to approach [it] how we approached the first game. Nothing changes for us. We want to try and tick all the boxes in batting, bowling, and fielding."

India have the upper hand in head-to-head meetings over Pakistan at T20 World Cups, winning five of seven games with just one defeat and one draw.

Despite their past dominance, India are unlikely to underestimate their neighbours and bitter rivals in what is the biggest match in world cricket.

India are set to coninue with their winning combination start batter Virat Kohli to open with Rohit.

They also had three specialist pacers – Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh – as well as all-rounder Hardik Pandya, adding a fourth paceman in the attack.

Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja are the two spinners but they also add depth to India’s batting, which could prove crucial in New York.

Pakistan must win to keep alive hopes of a top-two finish to qualify for the Super Eight stage.

Imad had to sit out Pakistan's humiliating defeat to the USA in Dallas. He also missed the final match of their pre-tournament series with England with what was reported to be a rib injury.

But Pakistan coach Gary Kirsten told the pre-match press conference that they would be able to call on the 35-year-old left-arm spinner.

"He will be available," said the South African, who took over the reigns of the Pakistan team in April.

Kirsten was unable to give any details of Pakistan's likely line-up as he said he was waiting on fitness updates on other players.

But the coach said that whoever took the field would not need any extra-motivation to bounce back from the painful defeat to the USA with a win against Pakistan's arch-rivals.

"It's never nice not winning games of cricket for any player. They're trying their best. It's never nice. I don't think I needed to motivate this team for this game," he said.

"I think the important thing for us is that we operate genuinely as a team. Yes, we need individuals to make good performances, but playing games like this, I think is a real team effort.

"It's a big game, so we're going to treat it as any other game. But certainly, give it our best shot. The team's motivated. Two days ago is forgotten. We can't take it back. It's gone. So, we move on," he said.

Pakistan possess a batting and bowling lineup that can be formidable on their day, and will look to captain Babar Azam to bring his A-game against India.

Babar has reunited with his tried and tested opening partner Mohammad Rizwan but it’s the middle-order that has not given any sort of momentum for Pakistan, except for Fakhar Zaman.

The pace quartet is off-color too and failed to provide early breakthroughs against the USA. Haris Rauf conceded 15 off the last over against US during the regulation game and Mohammad Amir, who ended his retirement to play in the World Cup, bowled a costly 18 runs in the Super Over.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 9:31 AM