India-Pakistan in the desert

The prospect of multiple ODI matches between the archrivals excites K Shahid

India-Pakistan in the desert
Pakistan and India, of course, do not play any bilateral series these days, with the latter country seemingly unable to keep political disputes outside the realm of sports. One can only hope that with a former legendary captain as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, this particular issue can be addressed with a relatively long-term solution.

In the meanwhile, however, there is the potential for multiple ODI matches between the two countries as part of the Asia Cup, which will be played in the Emirates in September. With the ODI tournament being played over two weeks, one Indo-Pak fixture is confirmed, two almost certain and three pretty likely.

Yet another ICC tournament and yet another time that India and Pakistan have been slotted in the same group, an openly declared policy now to ensure that the most watched – and in turn the most profitable – fixture gets played.

Dubai Cricket Stadium

Pakistan and India feature in Group A of Asia Cup 2018, which starts on the 15th of September, ending on the 29th – which is the national side’s next international assignment. Joining the two Asian heavyweights in Group A will be a qualifier: one of Malaysia, Hong Kong, Oman, UAE, Nepal and Singapore. Group B has Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Two teams from each group will qualify for the next round, which means that barring one of the six potential qualifiers beating either India or Pakistan, both of the sides should be in the final four.

The format of the Asia Cup is such that each of the four qualified sides from the two groups will form a four-team pool, with every side playing all others once each. Again, that means that unless one of Malaysia, Hong Kong, Oman, UAE, Nepal or Singapore, manages to beat India and Pakistan in their Group match, another India-Pakistan match in the second round will be played.

Javed Miandad against India at Sharjah Cricket Ground

The top two sides from the second round will play out the final. Given that India and Pakistan are comfortably the two best sides in Asia right now, it is likely that they would make the final – but yes, this is one chicken that we can’t count before it’s hatched, or gets closer to being hatched.

But barring a colossal upset, two India Pakistan matches would be played out. The first of these would be on September 19, at Dubai International Stadium, the second ‘1st Group A vs 2nd Group A’ will be played on September 25, also in Dubai. The city will also host the Asia Cup final on the 28th of September.

Abu Dhabi, 2006

India and Pakistan will be squaring off in Dubai for the very first time. The only time they’ve played a bilateral in the Emirates was the two-match ODI series played in Abu Dhabi in April 2006. Of course, scores of memorable Indo-Pak clashes have taken place in Sharjah.

With it being extremely unlikely that the two would play again in the near future – that needs a Naya BCCI more than a Naya Pakistan – the Asia Cup would be the final chance for India and Pakistan to play each other before the summer’s ODI World Cup in the UK.
In the Asia Cup next month, one Indo-Pak fixture is confirmed, two almost certain and three pretty likely

What the fixture on its own means – regardless of what it eventually does to the tournament being contested – can be gauged by the BCCI’s rant against the scheduling of the Asia Cup.

“There appears to be zero application of mind. How can you accept a scenario where India plays a game today and tomorrow it will face its arch-rival Pakistan who will have a two-day period of rest?” CricketNext quotes a BCCI official as saying.

Pakistan, Asia Cup champions 2014

With the Indo-Pak clash on the 19th of September, India play against the qualifier on the 18th of September, while Pakistan would have played against the qualifier on the 16th.

Considering that both India and Pakistan should qualify from their group, the fact that the Indian board is creating an uproar over the scheduling of a fixture that would, for all practical purposes, have no bearing on the final result, shows how pivotal the fixture itself is. Not that you needed any proof for it!

But the mind games have officially begun, with India and Pakistan clashing for the first time since the Champions Trophy final.

Only six weeks to go!