Former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi believes that India have the “strength as well as the psychological advantage” against Pakistan owing to their recent performance against the Men in Green as the two arch-rivals prepare to renew the greatest cricketing rivalry in the much-awaited high-octane Champions Trophy encounter on Sunday at Edgbaston in Birmingham. While Pakistan holds a 2-1 lead over their fierce rivals and neighbours in the Champions Trophy, it is India who have won 10 out of the 11 contests at the World Cup and World T20 tournaments between the two sides.
In recent times, however, the rivalry between the two cricketing giants has been one sided with India enjoying the lion’s share of positive results. “As a passionate Pakistan supporter, it’s natural that I would want my team to finish on the winning side against any team, and especially against India. However, recent history and the depth of the India squad gives it a slight edge heading into the game,” Afridi wrote in a recently published column on the International Cricket Council (ICC) website.
“Led by Virat Kohli, the Indians possess a formidable batting line-up that can flay any bowling attack on its day. Kohli’s credentials as a top-order batsman are known to all and he has played some memorable innings in the ODI format.”
“For me, bowling to Kohli was always a challenge and Pakistani bowlers would have to be on top of their game against him. They must try and attack, especially when he is new at the crease. If Pakistan dismisses Kohli cheaply, it will significantly increase its chances of restricting India to a low score,” he added.
The former Pakistan T20 skipper also maintained that in order to succeed against the Men in Blue, Pakistan’s bowlers would need to keep chipping away with wickets at regular intervals.
“India enters the game against Pakistan on a high and has the ‘favourite’ tag. However the ‘Green-shirts’ can surely spring a surprise with a committed and passionate performance according to present day cricket requirements,” Afridi insisted. India won the last Champions Trophy in 2013 and head into the marquee event as favourites after a hugely successful home season with 10 Test wins.
The Men in Blue are number one in the Test rankings after series victories over New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia, and would hope to carry that form into the Champions Trophy. Following the clash against Pakistan, India will face Sri Lanka and South Africa on June 8 and June 11 respectively.