ISLAMABAD: Pakistani cricket fans are hopeful of their side’s win against India as the two South Asian heavyweights gear up to take on each other in the high-voltage Asia Cup match in Sri Lanka today, Saturday.
Pakistan are on a high since they whitewashed Afghanistan 3-0 last week to rise to the top of the one-day international rankings. The Green Shirts are aiming to outdo the archrivals with the world’s top pace trio of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah.
India will be counting on skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Hardik Pandya to mount as much runs as they can in the blockbuster match that is expected to be watched by millions of fans around the world. Both Azam, who remains top of the ODI batting chart, and Kohli have praised each other despite the bitter rivalry between the two nations.
Arab News spoke to a number of fans in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad who praised both teams, but were hopeful of Pakistan’s win in Saturday’s clash.
“Now I can confidently speak about this team, because the teams we watched in our childhood would always get beaten up but this time we can say that yes, God willing, we can knock them for six,” said Shabbir Ali Adnan, a chartered accountant.
Amber, an HR professional who only gave her first name, said both teams were at their best and it would be a “match of equals.”
“I think the team that we have right now, they are a great mix of talent, skill and attitude,” she told Arab News. “Their nerves are very strong. I think we are going to give them [India] a very tough time.”
The six-nation tournament is a final chance for teams from the region to size each other up before the World Cup in October.
Mohammad Shakeel, a street food vendor, was convinced that Babar’s exemplary form and the Pakistani pace attack would outsmart India this time.
“Pakistan team is quite strong at the moment, Babar Azam’s performance is quite strong,” Shakeel said. “Our bowling attack is also quite good, so God willing, we will beat them this time.”
Others rooted for all-rounder Fakhar Zaman, and pacers Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, hoping they would steer Pakistan to victory in Saturday’s match.
Pakistan have announced their playing XI, keeping the same team that hammered debutants Nepal in the Asia Cup opener.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (cap), Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi