World Cup 2019: Difficult to pick a favourite when India-Pakistan clash, says Zaheer Abbas

The former Pakistan captain says if Pakistan wins Sunday's game, then the final of World Cup 2019 will be between India and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan players at the end of a Champions Trophy match in 2017.   -  AFP Photo

Former Pakistan captain, Zaheer Abbas, believes that with captain Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in its ranks, India has got the best batting unit in the world. However, Abbas -- who has been a ICC chairman in the past -- admits that when  Kohli's men take on Pakistan in a big-ticket fixture at the World Cup on Sunday, there won't be any clear favourite.

"If Pakistan wins the game at Old Trafford, the final will be played between India and Pakistan. Trust me," the 71-year-old told Sportstar.

India and Pakistan face off after nine long months and at a time when there is tension between the two countries on the political front. What are your thoughts on Sunday's fixture?

It is a very big game, perhaps the match of the tournament. I don't know anything about politics and I strongly feel that sports should be kept out of it. We should not bring politics into cricket and it is not right to give colours to this match either. We all know what has happened between the two countries, there is no need to remind everyone all over again. This is the World Cup and all the concentration should only be on the game. Winning and losing are part of it, but what is important is to play in the spirit of the game and ensure that people take enough interest in it. I just hope we have a very good game on Sunday. Pakistan has never won a game against India in the World Cup, but let's not forget there was a time when India too lost a lot of games against us. Sometimes, your team is good, and there are times when your team goes through a rough phase. So, these things happen and that's the beauty of the game!

But does India looks more balanced than Pakistan at the moment?

India has got a matured team and it has the best batting line-up in the world. Because of the IPL, the players have become more matured. Of course, your captain Virat and your opening batsman, Rohit Sharma, are the best in the world. I must say, Rohit can play so many strokes. He is such a skillful player and it is a treat to watch both Virat and Rohit. India has set a lot of big scores, but then, in this World Cup, Pakistan too has scored 340 odd runs. So, they also have the potential. So, it depends on how the individuals perform on that particular day and whoever fares well will be the winner.

But apart from the Champions Trophy final, things have tilted India’s way...

Some time, selection of teams also play a factor. Experience counts a lot. And in the big matches, a lot also depends on what you decide — to bat first or to bowl. Depending on if you have a strong batting lineup, you would like to chase. It was the case before with India, with so many star batsmen in its ranks. But now, their bowling unit has also improved. But I think, this will be a game of nerves. If Pakistan wins tomorrow, trust me the final will be played between India and Pakistan.

Will Shikhar Dhawan's absence be a concern for India?

Dhawan was not in form initially before he scored a hundred against Australia. He came in and played a classy century. India would have ideally loved to take advantage of the left-right batting combination, but then, K.L. Rahul is also very good.

What are the areas Pakistan need to work on, because they have been largely inconsistent so far?

They should aim to bat for 50 overs. The main batsmen should last long. The last match against Australia became so close but we lost in the end. We could have chased it down had one of our main batsmen stayed on. Another area is fielding. We dropped so many catches! The fielding was not up to the mark and our opening batsman, Fakhar Zaman, got out early without opening account — so all of this, played a role. You have to survive for at least first 10 overs, concentrate on singles, and ensure you don’t lose any wicket by then. If you can do that, you can definitely post more than 300 runs. You need to think about how to approach, because the bowlers will always be after you. How you handle the situation is the big question.

Weather has been a major concern in this World Cup. Should there have been reserve days for all the league games?

There should be a reserve day. It should look like a World Cup. Some people were telling me that so far it doesn’t seem the World Cup has begun, because rain has played such a spoilsport. Now, everyone is focusing on Sunday’s match, and if it gets washed out, what will happen? There must be a reserve day.

Who do you think is the favourite?

When Pakistan is playing against India, you cannot predict a clear favourite. All the players hope to give their best performances. At the moment, most of the people are considering India the favourite, but I will still say, this game will prove who is going to win the tournament. In the 2017 Champions Trophy, nobody imagined Pakistan to win the title but they did. It is a different ball game in the World Cup. Pakistan has never won against India in a World Cup, but let’s see how it goes.

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