India and Pakistan are set to renew their historic rivalry in an ODI match, marking their first encounter in four years at the 2023 Asia Cup. This much-anticipated clash between two cricketing powerhouses holds immense significance due to the intense history and exceptional player quality associated with this rivalry. The infrequency of their meetings has only heightened the anticipation surrounding every match.
The last time these teams faced each other in an ODI was during the 2019 World Cup. Memories of Fakhar Zaman's century and Jasprit Bumrah's infamous no-ball in the 2017 Champions Trophy final still linger, even though it has been six years since those incidents. Since then, they have played only three ODIs against each other, further adding to the excitement.
The scarcity of matches between India and Pakistan makes it challenging to predict the favorites for Saturday's game in Pallekele. Traditionally, the battle has revolved around Pakistan's bowlers challenging India's batsmen. While that aspect will undoubtedly be a key contest once again, with Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf testing the skills of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, and Virat Kohli, other factors also come into play as the ODI World Cup is just over a month away.
The Asia Cup was expected to mark the return of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul. While Iyer has been declared fit, Rahul is still working towards complete fitness, creating an opportunity for Ishan Kishan. Kishan showcased his potential with three consecutive half-centuries in the West Indies, albeit as an opener. With Rohit returning, Kishan might have to relinquish the opening slot.
Another crucial player for India, Jasprit Bumrah, made his comeback during the Ireland T20Is. Prior to that series, Bumrah expressed his readiness to bowl a full quota of ten overs. Saturday's game, weather permitting, will be a test of his claim.
Pakistan's captain, Babar Azam, is in exceptional form, as demonstrated by his brilliant 151 against Nepal in the tournament opener. However, concerns arise from Fakhar Zaman's recent poor run of form. Since scoring three consecutive centuries, including an unbeaten 180 against New Zealand, Fakhar has struggled, managing only 139 runs in his next seven innings. Nevertheless, both Pakistan and India acknowledge his destructive potential. Moreover, Pakistan possesses a deeper batting lineup compared to India, giving them an advantage.