Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India will be looking to bounce back from their shock opening defeat when they take on a resurgent Pakistan in Saturday’s World Twenty20 blockbuster in Kolkata.
Favorites India were stunned by New Zealand on Tuesday when they were shot out for 79 in Nagpur—their lowest score on home turf in T20 internationals. But India’s limited-overs skipper has full faith in his side that came into the tournament on the back of 10 wins in 11 T20 matches, including victory in the Asia Cup. “What’s important is how to turn around and how to come back strong and I think this team has done this plenty of times,” Dhoni said after the New Zealand loss.
After their stumbles in Nagpur, India’s frontline batsmen Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli will have to find their feet against a hostile Pakistan pace attack which includes the in-form Mohammad Amir. The Pakistani paceman, on the comeback trail after serving a prison sentence and a five-year ban for spot-fixing, ended with impressive figures of 2-27 in his team’s victorious opener against Bangladesh.
Although India registered a commanding victory over Pakistan in last month’s Asia Cup, their batsmen were far from comfortable against Amir, with Kohli congratulating him for “an amazing” spell of bowling.
While the pitch in Nagpur turned dramatically, Eden Gardens is seen as offering more bounce and Dhoni could well be tempted to play a fit-again Mohammed Shami on what is be the speedster’s home ground.
Pakistan had come into the tournament in woeful form and their preparations were not helped by a row over security, which led to the match being switched from Dharamsala to Kolkata. But their trouncing of Bangladesh has banished the gloom, with skipper Shahid Afridi leading from the front by batting a 19-ball 49 and then bagging two key wickets in the 55-run win.
Afridi said the result was a “morale booster” ahead of the clash between the South Asian titans who are both former World T20 champions. But he downplayed the significance of India’s opening match upset.
“They have been playing good cricket though they lost their last game,” said Afridi.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz