India-Pakistan tie: Of keeping cool and packing the punch

Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Irfan Pathan, Salman Butt and Nadeem Khan weigh in on which team has the edge heading into the all-important Champions Trophy clash on June 4.

While Indian team has experienced players, Pakistan is relying upon youngsters to do the trick.   -  File Photo

Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Irfan Pathan may have never donned the India colours together, but they surely know what it takes to be a match-winner against Pakistan.

While Kanitkar is still remembered for his last-ball heroics in the final of the Coca-Cola Cup in Dhaka in 1998, Pathan had a dream outing when India toured Pakistan in 2004.

Pakistan has the edge over India in the Champions Trophy, having won two of the three contests so far, but both Kanitkar and Pathan believe that such statistics have very little significance on the field. “All those things don’t matter. India definitely has the upper hand, and the supreme form in the practice match proves just that,” Pathan tells Sportstar.

Pathan feels that Kohli’s team has the best bowling line-up. “It is the best bowling department. There will be a bit of challenge, but the Indian bowlers will definitely have the edge,” Pathan says, adding that a lot would depend on Shikhar Dhawan in the batting department. “He is hitting the ball well and the others would also be back in form,” Pathan says.

It’s a similar feeling for Kanitkar.

The former India batsman, however, says that a lot would depend on how the teams start. “The Indian players have more experience and that should count. India is better placed, but the start is important. For Pakistan, it is important to get off to a flier.”

Kanitkar also believes that India can come back from any tricky situation and things would be tough for the young turks of Pakistan. “They have to have a good start to put India under pressure, because they don’t have the experience,” Kanitkar says, adding that the Indian batsmen would shrug off the T20 blues. “It is not right to judge a cricketer based on T20. The formats are different, and for that, India is well-balanced,” says Kanitkar.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, however, believes that it doesn’t work that way. “There is always a change in the mindset every time the teams take the field,” Butt says, drawing reference to India maintaining a clean slate against the rival in the World Cup. “Ultimately, the better team will win. That’s how it goes,” he adds.

“You may say that the Pakistan squad lacks stability as compared to India, and I would partly agree. But then, that’s not a major problem because most of your players are young and there is no group and politics in the team” - Nadeem Khan

While there are doubts over the form of India’s top-order batsmen, Butt believes the victories in the warm-up games will definitely keep the Men in Blue rejuvenated. “They played so well against Bangladesh the other day. So, they are definitely in great form,” he says. “Pakistan comes into the tournament with a Test series win against the West Indies, while Indian players had a great IPL season. So, both the sides will be hoping to deliver the best,” the former captain says.

Former Pakistan cricketer Nadeem Khan feels that having young talents will give Pakistan the edge. “The youngsters can play free with an open mind, and that, in a big ticket match, is something you require,” Khan says.

While he has played once against India, in the historic Chennai Test, his brother Moeen Khan has led Pakistan in quite a few high-voltage matches. So, Khan understands what a player goes through during an India-Pakistan game.

“You may say that the Pakistan squad lacks stability as compared to India, and I would partly agree. But then, that’s not a major problem because most of your players are young and there is no group and politics in the team,” Khan points out, adding that the cool conditions in England will help Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali.

“Such matches can make you a hero or a zero, so it is better that the players focus on the job in hand. There is no point in over thinking,” Khan says.

The former cricketer, however, agrees that India is better placed. “India is the defending champion and there are quite a few big players who can change the course of a match. But then, Pakistan, too, have a point to prove,” he says.

On paper, India starts as the favourite. Will that magic continue in Birmingham on Sunday?

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