Good morning and welcome to live coverage of India vs Pakistan, every World Cup’s marquee group game, which this time takes place in the Ahmedabad bear pit, stronghold of Narendra Modi and the BJP. India have won all seven previous meetings in the tournament by sizeable margins, even in 1992 and 1999 when Pakistan were winners and runners-up respectively. There was a moment in 2003 when they got Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly out cheaply during India’s chase when it seemed possible that they would win but Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh took India home comfortably, giving Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar ‘a tournament too far’ Younis some fearful tap in the process.
The two teams come into this match in rude health, two of four unbeaten sides after two games. India survived a scare when they lost their top three cheaply against Australia to grind out an impressive victory, having rolled them over with their spinners, then bulldozed Afghanistan with the hall of fame quality of Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Pakistan beat Netherlands and Sri Lanka by virtue of significant contributions with the bat from Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel and Abdullah Shafique and the irrepressible Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali with the ball.
Given that Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner and Glenn Phillips, none of them in the class of India’s spinners, shared five wickets against England in the previous match at Ahmedabad, Ravichandran Ashwin must have a chance of returning to join Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav in India’s XI. Interestingly, though, none of India’s stellar top six have ever made a century in Ahmedabad and Pakistan’s pacers will fancy their chances if they can get the ball to deck around as Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc managed to do early on against the hosts in Chennai.
Of course this is more than a game for both sides and their billion plus supporters but we should always emphasise that the players like and respect each other as do most Indians and Pakistanis on a personal basis, unpolluted by nationalist politics and religion.
On the field in the past and on neutral territory, India have always found a way to win even when evenly matched. Most importantly, they had the weight of the nation on their shoulders in the 2011 semi at Mohali and triumphed. Defeat here would not derail their hopes but it would puncture the mood. Form and history suggests they have enough class and grit to prevail here.