Sourav Ganguly and Rameez Raja have shared their views on Wednesday's (September 19) hugely anticipated 2018 Asia Cup encounter between India and Pakistan at India TV's special show -'Cricket ki Baat' along with Geo News on Tuesday (September 18).
The former International captains for their respective teams have opined that the way Pakistan batsmen fare against the Indian spinners is going to decide the fate of the game.
Virat Kohli is the most discussing point of India's campaign in the Asia Cup and Ganguly believes that the charismatic skipper is the pillar of the national team and his absence will certainly weaken the side slightly but not much, saying there are enough match-winners in the squad, who can give a tough fight to Pakistan, expecting an even contest in Dubai.
Ganguly noted, “Kohli is a player who provides a lot of strength to the team. India is a bit weaker in his absence but in the conditions in which the Asia Cup is being played - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya - all can be match-winners. It will be a clash between equals. No one team can be said to be ahead. In the last decade or so you could have said that India had the edge over Pakistan but this time in Abu Dhabi where Pakistan plays a lot of cricket, it will be an even contest.”
While Pakistani batsman turned commentator Raja is also agreed with former Indian skipper’s views on India-Pakistan encounter, saying: “I don't think that Pakistan is ahead by any means as the performance against Hong Kong was sort of a middling one as the fast bowlers failed to swing the ball appreciably. Also, Pakistan doesn't have a good pool of spin bowlers unlike the other teams in the tournament. (Lasith) Malinga, on the other hand, swung the ball in Dubai in similar conditions. If Pakistan bowlers don't take wickets with the new ball, their bowling will be under a lot of pressure.”
There are many who believes that the lack of preparation could hurt India in their quest of defending the Asia Cup title in the UAE, as they entered to the tournament just after England tour, but Ganguly denied all the talks, saying it should not trouble them at the age of 24/7 cricket.
He further added, “I don't think that the lack of preparation in UAE is going to hurt India. They just completed a long tour of England and thus deserved a break. The players who are playing so much cricket these days shouldn't be troubled by this.”
Sourav also opined that Pakistan fast-bowler Mohammad Amir has the potential to trouble Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan in Dubai, while Raza believes that Dubai track is "not at all for the fast bowlers".
Indian batting great added, “Dhawan can be troubled by the left-arm swing of Md. Amir as he is vulnerable against left-arm pacers eg. Sam Curran in England, Mitchell Starc. In my opinion, Pak is playing an extra seamer and can afford to play with one more batsman instead. Rohit Sharma too would like to press the case for his inclusion in the Test team. India was beaten badly in England and it will be interesting to see if the Indian batsmen can raise their game on the big occasion as great players always do.”
While Raja noted, “If Pakistan are playing in Abu Dhabi then the ball swings more under lights. But in Dubai you have to play an extra spinner as the pitches there are overused due to a number of domestic matches and leagues played. It could be helpful for the spinners but not at all for the fast bowlers.”
Meanwhile, Raja believes that the Indian wrist-spinning duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will pose a serious threat to Pakistan in Dubai. He added, “Kuldeep and Chahal are going to be a serious threat for Pakistan and if they fail to read Kuldeep from his hand then it will be fatal. Pakistani players don't play spin very well. Their record against (Shane) Warne and (Graeme) Swann is not good and have struggled against Harbhajan Singh. Both teams depend upon eking out crucial wickets during the middle overs and India will rely on the duo to set the game for them in overs 10-40. If Pak plays spin well then they will get ahead of India in the game though if they fail to do so then India will be all over them.”
While Ganguly also agreed with Ramiz by saying, “As Ramiz was saying Kuldeep's performance in the middle-overs will be interesting to see. I have seen him doing a lot of damage in the first match of a series but then there is a dip in his performance. So we will have to see whether Pak takes advantage of this fact.”
The India-Pakistan encounter is famous for its intense and sometimes heated rivalry on the field and former Indian skipper said it only excites payers to do well.
Ganguly signed off by saying, “There weren't too many foul words or abuses thrown at each other during Indo-Pak games. Akhtar used to say something or the other at times but he still would bowl faster rather than abusing. Ramiz bhai never used to curse, never did Inzamam. I always felt more excited during these games.”