There isnt a contest in cricket like one between India and Pakistan. As the two neighbours renew their rivalry in an Asia Cup encounter in Dubai on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to be in attendance for the match. They will be playing each other for the first time after Pakistan World Cup-winning captain Imran took over the reins of the country and no one knows better than him the significance of cricket between the two nations.
If he does attend the match, he will be joined by a sell-out crowd of about 25,000 in the stands and of course, millions of fans on both sides of the border and elsewhere in the world, who will follow it on the telly or online. Cricket has often been used as a tool of diplomacy between the two countries, but this time around it assumes huge significance given that PM Khan has been a cricketer himself, and has taken the stance that both the countries should resume cricketing ties. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
The two countries last met on a cricket field in June last year when Pakistan beat India in Champions Trophy final in England. India would be eager to avenge this defeat. However, they need to negotiate left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir, who has troubled Indian batsmen. Indias superstar captain Virat Kohlis absence could prove to be an advantage for Pakistan but stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma is one of the best in the business when it comes to one-day cricket. His biggest challenge will be to solve Team Indias middle-order puzzle before the 2019 World Cup.
The constant chopping and changing has made the middle-order vulnerable. However, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu have a chance to raise their hands and be counted before the selection of team for the World Cup. Another issue for India would be to recover after the match against Hong Kong on Tuesday. Pakistan will be eager to utilise one day rest to their advantage and with Imran Khan in the stands, there will be no dearth of motivation for them.