Virat Kohli shares a laugh with Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf ahead of Asia Cup showdown

India and Pakistan face off in Pallekele on Saturday amid rain threat

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An India-Pakistan match is arguably the most high-pressure game in all sport. But there were very few signs of tension as players from both teams trained together in Pallekele on Friday on the eve of their Asia Cup clash.

Babar Azam's team are the in-form side, having recently climbed to the No 1 position in ODIs and with very few selection headaches. India, on the other hand, are still not sure about their playing XI for 50-over cricket and also the match-fitness of players returning from injury.

Saturday's match (1.30pm UAE time) is not only the first 50-over match between the neighbours since the 2019 World Cup, it is also the start of the countdown to the ODI World Cup in October-November, with hardly any room for experimentation or failure for both sides.

Star India batsman Virat Kohli was the centre of attention as he mingled with Pakistan players during the evening training session, sharing a laugh with Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan and fast bowler Haris Rauf.

Kohli had left an indelible mark on the minds of cricket fans during the previous clash between the teams during the 2022 T20 World Cup in Melbourne where he played one of the all-time great innings to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat. His successive sixes off Rauf in the penultimate over of the chase that set up an improbable victory are widely considered some of the best shots in modern T20 cricket.

On Friday, as the players interacted, Rauf joked with Kohli that wherever he goes, people shout Kohli's name, possibly as a reminder of those two sixes.

Captains Rohit Sharma and Azam also had a brief chat during training ahead of what should the first of many clashes between the rivals over the next three months.

The rivalry between the sides was not the only talking point on the eve of the match. The weather in Kandy, where the match is being held, has also come into focus with rain expected to impact the game at some point.

Updated: September 02, 2023, 4:00 AM