What, when and where
Defending champions India will take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup on Wednesday.
The Group A fixture, which has been hyped as the biggest clash at this stage of the competition, will be played at the Dubai International Stadium. The game, which starts at 3.30pm (UAE time), will mark the first time the two teams have met in a cricket match in Dubai.
But if fans of both sides are lucky, they could meet again, if both qualify for the next stage called the Super Four. A potential third match could be on the cards if India and Pakistan reach the final.
Why it is a big deal
It is actually a huge deal, for a variety of reasons.
While their rivalry is not the oldest – Australia v England is five decades older – it is probably the greatest, primarily because history and geography have much to do with it.
India and Pakistan share a long border, more than seven decades after British authorities drew a line in the sand, rock and snow to separate the two countries in 1947. The partition was a bitter affair, one that was carried out due to religious and political issues on both sides, and continues to haunt the collective consciousness of the peoples of both countries. Wars have been fought, too, over territorial claims.
As is the case with England and Australia, there is much that binds the peoples of India and Pakistan together – including demographics, culture, traditions, food, music and language. The other commonality between these two countries is their love for cricket.
India and Pakistan have over the decades produced supremely-gifted players and fielded highly-competitive sides, with their respective supporters treating cricket matches like war. Cricket is a zero-sum game to them, and their team must win at all costs.
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Rivalry in numbers
Pakistan hold a decisive edge over India in both Test and one-day international cricket.
Pakistan have won 12 of the 59 Tests, with India winning just nine and the rest ending in draws. In ODIs, the gulf is even wider, with Pakistan having won 73 of the 129 games, India 52. It is only Twenty20 cricket, the game’s newest format, in which India hold sway, having won six out of the eight matches.
In global competitions, however, it is the Indians who have historical superiority. For instance, Pakistan have never beaten their rivals in either the 50-overs World Cup (0 wins out of 6) or the World Twenty20 (0 from 5).
The exception is the Champions Trophy, in which India have won just twice in five matches.
In the Asia Cup
Here, too, India have an edge. In 11 ODIs, India have won six times and Pakistan four times. On the one occasion the tournament was held in the T20 format – during the last edition in 2016 – the two teams played against each other once. India won.
India have clinched the title six times, while Pakistan have taken the trophy home on three occasions.
This is where Pakistan may have a slight edge. The last time these two teams met – in the final of the Champions Trophy last year – Pakistan beat India by a whopping 180 runs.
Also, the men in green have had a fair amount of success in the run-up to the Asia Cup, beating admittedly lowly opponents Zimbabwe, in Zimbabwe, in an ODI series.
India, on the other hand, were beaten 2-1 by England, in England. Just as crucially, they have just left the shores of Blighty after a bruising 4-1 Test series loss. Another disadvantage for India is the absence of Virat Kohli, their captain and leading batsman who has chosen to give the tournament a miss.
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Pakistan have for the past decade been forced to play their home games outside Pakistan due to security concerns within the country.
After shunting between Sri Lanka, England and the UAE, they chose the Emirates as their home away from home – mostly due to proximity and demographics: a majority of the UAE’s residents are from the subcontinent, with a substantial portion among them from Pakistan.
As a result, they will feel more at home than would India, who are playing in the UAE after 12 years. The last time the Indians played in the Emirates, it was against - wait for it - Pakistan. They played a two-match ODI series in Abu Dhabi to raise money for victims of an earthquake that shook the disputed territory of Kashmir. That series was split 1-1.
Why UAE is special
The two sides have been involved in some of the most exciting cricket matches ever played. And some of these games were staged in the UAE.
Fans of a certain age are unlikely to forget Javed Miandad’s last-ball, match-winning six in 1986 – or for that matter, Aaqib Javed two five-fors, including a hat-trick in 1991.
Pakistan have dominated the encounters held in the Emirates, winning 19 of the 26 matches played against the Old Enemy, although to be fair to the men in blue, most of these matches were played in the 1980s and 90s when Pakistan were among the best teams in the world.
The pendulum shifted in the early 2000s, by which time fewer fixtures involving India were organised in the UAE. This was mostly because of a match-fixing scandal that swept across the sport at the turn of the millennium, with Sharjah suffering greatly in the fallout.
What channel to watch it on
All the matches will be shown live on OSN Cricket HD.
Tickets for Dubai matches start at Dh35, and for Abu Dhabi's games at Dh20. Visit https://dubai.platinumlist.net/asiacup for more information.