Champions Trophy: India v Pakistan Preview

Batsman hits ball

India and Pakistan are set to renew their rivalry when they meet in at Edgbaston in Champions Trophy action. 

A lengthy political and cricketing rivalry will resume this weekend, when the Sub-Continent's biggest guns - although Sri Lanka will disagree - clash in the United Kingdom.

Third only to first-placed South Africa and second-placed Australia in the ODI rankings, India are one of five realistic tournament favourites, while Pakistan have a lowly eighth position to counter.

India v Pakistan | Sunday, 4 June 2017  | Edgbaston, Birmingham | 11:30

To Win Match
India 47/100 | Tie 35/1 | Pakistan 7/4

India
While the defending champions haven't really been helped by captain Virat Kohli's recent comments about coach Anil Kumble, which the media have deemed untoward and poorly timed, they've traditionally had the collective steel to put off-field dramas behind them when crunch time commences.

Focus, too, is fixed on Kohli's ability to lead with the bat. The prolific right-hander is an immense ODI cricketer, but struggled at this tournament - in the same country - in 2013. A string of good starts pledged plenty, but a lack of conversion to numbers of genuine substance ultimately under-delivered.

India will go into the competition on the back of home series wins over New Zealand and England - but are acutely aware that they need to deliver success abroad, too. They are often labelled 'flat track bullies' - and arguably over-reliant on spinning pitches. The same, however, could be said about Sunday's opposition - so the imbalance is offset.

Seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah's death bowling proved superb during the Indian Premier League - and will be a major factor against Pakistan and, indeed, Group B's other opposition. How inexperienced duo Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya will fair poses plenty of intrigue, too, though neither will likely play against Pakistan.

India's last visit to Birmingham for an ODI was three years ago, when centurion Ajinkya Rahane and medium-pacer Mohammed Shami shone in a nine-wicket victory over England. The tourists utilised spin for more than half the overs then, which suggests they will do the same this time, with duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja again earmarked for the bulk of the load.

Pakistan
From 1978's maiden outing to 2015's last meeting, Pakistan have had the beating of India across a rich ODI history. They have won 72 of the 127 matches. Current form, however, doesn't necessarily signal 73 from 128. The familiar question of which Pakistan unit - fragile or firm - will rock up on the day is evident.

They pulled off a spectacular win over Bangladesh in a pre-tournament warm-up fixture at Edgbaston, where the uncapped Fahim Ashraf - batting at number nine - belted a belated half-century to reach a challenging 341-run target. The power-hitting displayed by the 23-year-old bodes well for a unit otherwise shy of big strikers.

New ODI captain Sarfraz Ahmed has insisted the lowest ranked team at the Champions Trophy "have nothing to lose", but given the selectors' propensity for regularly chopping and changing the limited-overs captaincy, Ahmed's words will need backing. He has the sage insight of former skipper Shoaib Malik, who will play a record sixth Champions Trophy, to draw on.

Pakistan's inability to combat a strong Indian bowling attack brought their demise during this fixture at the 2013 tournament. While the landscape of form and selection has changed somewhat, over-riding themes remain - and its their batting that remains the biggest concern, particularly in the absence of the unfit Umar Akmal.

In a competition that will see the top two teams from each group go through to the semi-finals, it is vital to win one's opening match, and not leave two must-win fixtures to follow. Pakistan can't let the magnitude of the circumstance hamper them - and then have to play 'catch up' cricket for the remainder of the competition.

Verdict: India 47/100
Of the eight Champions Trophy teams, India have played the least ODI cricket since the 2015 World Cup. Regardless, they are far too superior in personnel and performance to be outdone by a team five positions inferior in the ICC's rankings.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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