On Sunday at The Oval in London, we may well witness the most-watched cricket fixture in the history of the sport.
It’s going to be an unbelievable spectacle and I'm sure all us home fans would agree, if it wasn’t going to be England in the final (ideally beating Australia by 10 wickets), the next best thing would be an India vs Pakistan finale.
I heard somewhere that they’re anticipating this game could see more than a billion people globally tune in. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s unbelievable!
I’m told 988 million watched the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali, and even more tuned in when they met in the group stages of the same event four years later.
So, with that in mind, Sunday just got even bigger. It’s not just the ICC Champions Trophy final, which in itself is massive, but it’s also potentially a historical record-breaking landmark in the sport.
And if the atmosphere in all of India and Pakistan’s previous games during this competition is anything to go by, it’s going to be one hell of a buzz around The Oval.
Better yet, we’ll see two teams who impressed in their semi-finals and will each fancy their chances of coming away with the win.
Forget what happened in their opening fixture, this is all that matters. Whoever performs on the day, wins. As simple as that. Nothing that’s happened before matters.
The two teams are meeting in an ICC event final after 10 years, but for the first time in the final of a 50-over ICC competition. This will add even more fire to the occasion.
India will be considered the favourite, but like we saw against England, if Pakistan performs to the level we all know it can, it will be very, very close.
For me, it comes down to who wins the battle between Pakistan’s bowling and India’s batting. That is the key.
Pakistan’s seam attack is on fire at the moment, while you’d be hard-pressed to find a better top-three batting line-up than India’s.
If Pakistan bowls like it did against England, it will seriously be in contention. Hassan Ali is on fire and Pakistan will look to him to continue his cracking form with the ball.
India’s top three have all scored runs through this tournament and most pleasing in their eyes, I'm sure, was to see Virat Kohli showing his class. He’s starting to find his best form at the right time and that’s vital for India’s success.
He’s one of the best players in the world and understandably wants to stamp his authority on every game he plays. Pakistan will be desperate to get him out early, not just as a dangerous batsman, but also as a leader. He will lead from the front.
We saw a stroke of brilliance with his captaincy in the way he used Kedar Jadhav’s bowling against Bangladesh. He’s certainly improving game on game in this regard, and Pakistan will be very wary of both.
If you want to watch three batsmen play, you’d do a lot worse than to watch India’s top three. Not only do they get the job done, but they’re incredibly easy on the eye as well.
Another advantage for India is its experience in big matches. Its players are used to being in big games, particularly with the IPL, but also when it won the Champions Trophy in 2013. It has got a nice blend of youngsters and players who’ve been there and done that.
An often undervalued part of this India team is its fielding unit. It is very impressive and can squeeze the life out of the opposition. It did that brilliantly against Bangladesh and will be looking to replicate that.
An area Pakistan could get joy is through India’s middle overs. Bangladesh didn’t play India’s spinners well in the semi-final, but Pakistan could have some joy.
Pakistan has a good blend of aggression and class with the openers in Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman, which they’ll look to keep at the crease for as long as possible.
As for the pitch, it’ll be fresh like Edgbaston. Knowing The Oval, it’ll be a good batting track and I anticipate both sides getting 300+.
It’ll be interesting to see who wins the toss and what they do. Both teams have preferred chasing in the semi-finals and with the sun out and a flat wicket, I suspect both will want to do the same.
In any case, it’ll be a wonderful occasion and one I'm really excited to be a part of.
For me, The Oval is a special venue. It’s always the last game of the season for England and it’s where I’ve won several Ashes series. It’s a trophy-winning ground and one team will be doing just that come Sunday. © ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2017. All rights reserved.
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