Big picture: Face-to-face in ODIs after four years
If someone tells you there are bigger rivalries than India vs Pakistan at the 2023 Asia Cup, do not trust them.
Of late, the Afghanistan vs Pakistan and Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh games might have been spicier on the field, and nastier off it, but the history – both cricketing and otherwise – and the quality of the players involved make India vs Pakistan arguably the biggest rivalry in world cricket. That they rarely face each other these days makes every match a highly anticipated one.
And that is also one of the reasons why it’s not easy to say who the favourites are for Saturday’s game in Pallekele.
India WLWLL (last five ODIs, most recent first)Pakistan WWWWL
In the spotlight: Shreyas Iyer and Shaheen Shah Afridi
Shaheen Shah Afridi had dismissed Rohit Sharma for a first-ball duck at the 2021 T20 World Cup•AFP/Getty Images
Team news: What will India’s pace attack look like?
India need to make some tough calls. If they pick Shardul Thakur to lengthen their batting line-up, it would leave just two spots for frontline seamers (assuming Kuldeep Yadav is a certainty). In that case, Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj are likely to get the nod ahead of Mohammed Shami and Prasidh Krishna.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Ishan Kishan (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur/Mohammed Shami, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pakistan announced an unchanged XI on Friday evening.
Pakistan: 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Agha Salman, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Naseem Shah, 11 Haris Rauf
Pitch and conditions: Rain threatens delayed start
The match will be played on a fresh pitch but if it behaves anything like the Sri Lanka-Bangladesh one, with help for both seamers and spinners, good luck to the batters. There’s a forecast of rain, though, from early morning till mid-afternoon, which could delay the start.
Stats and trivia: Kohli, Babar on the cusp of milestones
“They are a very good team, last few years they’ve done really well, whether it’s at the T20 World Cup or in the 50-over format. No team becomes No. 1 just like that. Pakistan has worked hard a lot to get there, they look like a unit. It will be a good challenge to play against them.”Rohit Sharma on Pakistan
“Let’s leave that debate [Babar vs Kohli] to people. Everybody has their point of view, and I don’t want to comment on it. He is elder to me and I have been taught to respect elders, no matter from which country they are. And I have learnt a lot from him. In 2019, during the World Cup, I spoke to him and it helped me a lot.”Babar Azam on his relation with Virat Kohli
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo