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India v Pakistan: Time to take potshots again

LONDON: Ten years on, what has changed in the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry? The last time these two nations met twice in an ICC tournament was back in 2007, in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa.





There are a few relics from that era still lurking around these two teams: India have MS Dhoni, then a young, untested captain; Yuvraj Singh, of the six-sixes fame and Rohit Sharma, who batted at No. 6 in the final. For Pakistan, there's only Shoaib Malik, the one constant in a team perpetually in flux.




These four players can attest to the fact that the diaspora, whether here in England or back then in Johannesburg and Durban, is still stuck in a time warp: In Durban that year, as Dhoni was addressing the press after a dramatic bowl-out decided the winner, anti-Pakistan chants from outside drowned out his voice. This time, in the first India-Pakistan game in Birmingham, anti-India chants were raised when the team buses arrived.




In all this time, the teams have moved on and the cricketing rivalry, seen in isolation, has acquired a totally different, milder hue, having moved away from the ethnocentrism of earlier eras because of a relative mismatch in cricketing might.




In some minds and hearts, though, nothing seems to have changed. For Indians and Pakistanis here, these match ups are mostly exercises in chest-thumping and partisan sloganeering. The trolls exist in good number, and feeding them are ex cricketers from both sides like Aamer Sohail - who has suggested an "outside hand" in Pakistan's rise to the final - or Rashid Latif or even Virender Sehwag, whose good-natured rib-tickling on twitter is usually misconstrued as arrogance among British Pakistanis.




On Sunday too, the Indian and Pakistani hockey teams play each other in the World League Semifinals just a little bit into the cricket game.


From 2007 to 2017, the graph of both nations' teams has followed a path similar to their respective socio-economic patterns. Pakistan cricket has been hurt deeply by the 'sanction' on home Tests while India has experienced tremendous success. Pakistan, ranked last of the eight teams, seem to have over-reached by reaching the final. India are the defending champs.




India are like a well-oiled machine, playing "boring" cricket to devastating effect, as Virat Kohli said. Pakistan have not lost their ability to surprise, and past records are no guarantee India will have it easy on Sunday. The mesmerizing, unpredictable Pakistan can always flash its storied cricketing pedigree and come up with a world-beating performance.



Fit-again Amir could play



Pakistan got a boost ahead of the final with news that left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir, who sat out of the semis with back spasms, may be fit for the final. Amir had also suffered cramps in the group stage game against India. Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan's bowling coach, said, "Amir bowled today. Amir is fit. We have not decided (yet).When you go to a final, you want your experienced player, you want him to be fully fit and participating. We have told him if he has any doubt he should let us know. If he is not fit, we have to move on."

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