Fitness test for one side. Carrying the form for another. And the last leg for the World Cup preparations for both the sides. All these objectives will be paused for eight hours at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on the outskirts of hilly Kandy starting Saturday afternoon.
After all, it’s India vs Pakistan time. That too in the Asia Cup. And the same stands and grass banks that wore a deserted look on Thursday for Sri Lanka’s game against Bangladesh - the other fierce inter-continental rivalry - will be choc-a-bloc.
The tournament may have already witnessed two games, but the Asia Cup will actually come alive on Saturday when Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam walk out for the toss.
With the political situation resulting in bilateral cricket taking a break, the fans are hoping to witness five - at least three - clashes between both the outfits over the next ten weeks. Such is the rarity of witnessing both the teams in action that the hostile neighbours have not faced each other in an ODI since the 2019 World Cup.
No wonder then Colombo-bound flights from all corners of India over the last couple of days have been overbooked, with a few Indian fans roaming the streets of Kandy in quest of buying a ticket at the last minute, an unaffordable task for the World Cup game in Ahmedabad next month.
Most of the fans - not just at the venue but also worldwide - will be hoping that the weather forecast of frequent interruptions doesn’t come true for Saturday. Since the stadium is situated in the rain shadow region, inclement weather usually dodges the stadium.
Both the teams will also be hoping for a full game. After all, there is more in it for them than just the prestige involved in the outcome of the game.
India will be hoping for Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah to not just prove their fitness to get back into form right away after a prolonged injury layoff. While Bumrah featured in the T20I series in Ireland last month, Shreyas hasn’t played a competitive game for more than six months.
With Shreyas’ return after a layoff and Ishan Kishan set to play at No. 5 in a new role, the onus will be on top three to make it count, that too against a pace attack that’s been at its best for a while.
The match is widely - and rightly to a sense - been billed as a battle between India’s top three versus Pakistan’s pace trio. India’s top three and Pakistan’s pace attack appeared to be into their elements while training on either side of the strip on Friday evening.
At the same time, India will be hoping for Bumrah and Co. to contain an on-song batting line-up. It will be interesting to see if India pick Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami in place of Shardul Thakur, who offers batting depth at No. 8.
Irrespective of the combination, Pallekele will light up come Saturday. So will the Asia Cup!
- Southgate urges England understudies to seize chance against Australia
- UK govt rebukes FA for not lighting up Wembley arch in Israel colours after Hamas attack
- Brazil 1-1 Venezuela Highlights, FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Gabriel goal in vain as Bello equalises late for Venezuela
- Late Nunez penalty gives Uruguay 2-2 draw in Colombia
- NZ vs BAN head-to-head in ODI World Cup: New Zealand vs Bangladesh WC results and records