India v Pakistan: Battle of nerves at arch-rivals’ cricket World Cup clash

Cricket’s most famous rivalry resumes as hosts India take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the ongoing World Cup in Ahmedabad.

The match on Saturday has been described as the “blockbuster event” of the tournament – millions will tune in to watch the game and the 132,000-capacity stadium is expected to be full.

Both sides have made confident starts in the tournament, winning their first two matches.

But India v Pakistan is one fixture where past performances don’t guarantee a win. It’s the ultimate test of skill, preparedness, strategy and above everything else, nerves.

With millions of cheering fans who see the match as a war, it comes down to the players’ ability to keep the noise out and treat it like any other game.

Both teams have players who can do this to put up a performance that matches the monumental occasion.

India will start as firm favourites because of their uncanny record of winning all seven World Cup matches against Pakistan.

But the visitors are unpredictable.

They entered the Asia Cup in September as the world’s top one-day team but crashed out in the semi-finals. But when it’s their day, Pakistan can dismantle any side.

Their batting prowess revolves around their charismatic but often understated captain Babar Azam. His sublime stroke play is a treat to watch but what makes him special is his ability to switch gears effortlessly.

He paces his innings quietly, almost like hiding in plain sight. Before his opponents realise what’s happening, his score has reached the 50s or 60s and then he starts hitting fours and sixes at will. He also stays calm on the field and gives little away – no matter how the match is going.

India should also take note of his average in one-day internationals, which is at 70 since the last World Cup in 2019.

If he gets going, India will be in trouble. But he is not the only hurdle for them.

Wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan is in scintillating form – he scored an unbeaten 131 to help his side chase down Sri Lanka’s imposing target of 344 on Tuesday.

Abdullah Shafique scored a century in the match and cemented his place in international cricket.

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