After all the hype and hoopla, India and Pakistan will lock horns in the mega clash of the tournament at the famed Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Super Saturday. Both sides go into the clash having tasted contrasting fortunes in their previous encounter. Having gone into the tournament as favourites, India were shocked by New Zealand in their very first outing, throwing all the pre-tournament talk out of the picture. Having been humbled by spinners, India's batsmen will be keen to make amends. As for Pakistan, they will look to break the jinx of never having beaten India in a World Cup or World T20. They will take the confidence of the thumping win against Bangladesh into the match.
Like in the Asia Cup, the contest on Saturday is likely to be decided by who wins the tussle between India's batsmen and Pakistan's bowlers. India had a harrowing time against New Zealand's spinners in their opening encounter at Nagpur as their technique was clearly exposed. The Eden track would not offer as much prodigious turn, but this is a daunting venue at which India have not done than well, especially in ICC events. The performance of Virat Kohli would once again be the key. At Nagpur, he was the only Indian batsman to look in control. But, it will be imperative that big names like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and skipper MS Dhoni himself fire.
India's bowling continued to be impressive against Nagpur as well. But, there were a few moments where they slipped against the Kiwis, and it proved significant in the end. Ravichandran Ashwin, rather surprisingly, could not trouble the batsmen as much as his lesser known counterparts from New Zealand did. Also, Ashish Nehra was taken apart in the last over of the match, and the Indians would hope that his confidence has not been dented too much. The good part is that Jasprit Bumrah remained impressive, and got the breakthroughs, and India's fielding also was good throughout. What the hosts need to do is forget what transpired against the Kiwis and start afresh.
At the back of their minds, Pakistan would be very well aware that they have never beaten India in an ICC event. But, cricketing logic says that they would go into the match in a better frame of mind. Shahid Afridi's men put up a powerhouse performance to subdue Bangladesh. There were apprehensions about their batting after a poor Asia Cup campaign. But, Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad brought their experience into play to overcome the decent Bangladesh bowling attack. Afridi himself was under pressure following his off field comments that generated controversy. But, he responded in the best way possible, blazing with the ball and claiming wickets too.
Although Pakistan lost to India as recently as the Asia Cup, they did trouble the arch-rivals briefly. Mohammad Amir came up with a near unplayable spell to shell-shock India early on. Amir will definitely have an edge over the Indian batsmen, and if they can get Kohli early, India will be under real pressure. Amir though lacked support in that encounter, and he will need the likes of Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz to be in better form. In the spin department, Imad Wasim will have a key role to play, especially after the manner in which India capitulated against Kiwi slow bowlers. India will be under pressure to stay alive in the event, and that is another factor Afridi and co will be aware of.
-- By A Cricket Analyst