Cricket World #INDOPAK Cup: Squad announcement & Series Preview
It is time to announce 15-strong squads of both India and Pakistan for the much anticipated Cricket World INDOPAK Cup Series - a two-match series with game 1 on Tuesday, 2nd June and game 2 on Thursday, 4th June - a Virtual Dice Cricket Tournament, in association with A Leading Edge and PitchVision.
India and Pakistan have been playing at neutral venues for the past eight years. The last match between the two teams in either country was played in the Indian capital of Delhi on January 6 in 2013. Since then, India and Pakistan have either met in ICC events or in the Asia Cup of late, while bi-lateral cricket has been put on the back burner.
The first match, in our virtual world though, will be held at the National Stadium in Karachi. Interestingly, the last time India played in Pakistan, it was in the final of the 2007-2008 Asia Cup at the National Stadium in Karachi itself, where the home side won by 8 wickets.
While Pakistan have the clear-cut advantage in their home matches with 14 ODI victories as opposed to India's 11 out of the 27 ODIs between the two teams, India have done quite well in Karachi. The Men in Blue have won 4 of their 7 matches at the National Stadium in Karachi while the hosts have managed to win just two.
Pakistan's opening combination of Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman may not have been at their best of late, but the duo have done wonders for the team over the last couple of years and deserve an extended run. Newly appointed white-ball skipper Babar Azam, also regarded as one of the best batsmen in contemporary cricket, follows at number three.
Veteran Shoaib Malik, despite having announced his retirement from ODIs, finds a place in the squad. Since, the two matches are being played in the T10 format, that is not a problem as far as the Cricket World INDOPAK Cup goes. Fellow batsman Mohammad Hafeez, who has made a successful comeback to international cricket alongside Malik, has been picked.
Hard-hitting batsmen Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed also find a place, with their style best suited to the shorter format. Sarfaraz Ahmed, in our view, remains Pakistan's leading wicketkeeper-batsman and has been picked ahead of Rizwan. Spin bowling all-rounders Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan were no-brainers.
The pace attack comprises Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and Naseem Shah. Shaheen Shah Afridi has grown into Pakistan's best bowler and had to be in there. On the contrary, Hasan Ali, who won them the 2017 Champions Trophy, has been injured for a long time now and misses out.
Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir have been picked as the mainstays of the Pakistan pace battery while Naseem Shah, with his raw pace, brings in an X-factor.
The batting conundrum refuses to solve for India and each of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul had to be picked in the squad. It would be interesting to see who out of Dhawan and Rahul opens alongside Rohit and who bats in the middle order.
Shreyas Iyer has cemented his place at no 4 and follows skipper Virat Kohli. Iyer will compete with Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav (also an option with the ball) for a middle order spot.
Much like the management of Team India, we failed to decide on the wicketkeeper and have picked both Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni in the squad alongside Rahul. The final call will be taken on match day, but each of them can also play as a pure batsman.
Explosive all-rounder Hardik Pandya is back to full fitness and picks himself in the squad. As do pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
Spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are still pretty much in the team's plans for the upcoming T20 World Cup and have been picked. Will both play or only one of them makes the cut?
Find out in our Playing XI announcement on June 1.
Game 1 - Tuesday, 2nd June at National Stadium, Karachi (11 am GMT)
Game 2 - Thursday 4th June at Eden Gardens, Kolkata (11 am GMT)
Here are the 15-strong squads:
Pakistan - Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (C), Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah
India - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul (WK), Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (WK), MS Dhoni (WK), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
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