India versus Pakistan is the biggest sporting rivalry in the world. It is estimated that the last time these two teams played in the World Cup in 2015 the match attracted a television audience of more than a billion.
Who knows what the real figure was but the fact they had 700,000 applicants for tickets for Sunday’s game shows the hunger to see India and Pakistan play cricket in a match that is about politics, passion and national identity. I know of one India fan who offered to buy up the whole Hilton Hotel at Old Trafford for corporate sponsorship (he was turned down), and tickets are selling for more than £5,000 on resale sites.
We play in an Ashes series and think that is huge pressure but because India and Pakistan play so rarely it must be even more intense. In such big games emotions can be hard to handle because you know you have the opportunity to do something special. There are two types of nerves. Negative and positive. Negative nerves are when you worry you will mess it up for your team. Positive nerves make you think you can grab the game yourself and win it for the team.
Apart from the Champions Trophy final two years, India have the upper hand over Pakistan. India have never lost a World Cup match against Pakistan. India have more players who believe they can beat Pakistan on any given day. They will miss Shikhar Dhawan but India have seven or eight players who believe they can win matches with their own individual brilliance and skill. I’m not sure how many in the Pakistan team think the same way.
This World Cup needs a thriller. The tournament lost momentum last week because of the atrocious weather. The Women’s football World Cup has started and is being watched by millions on television, taking attention away from the cricket, so this tournament needs a great, high-profile game and there is no better way to trigger that than with an India-Pakistan thriller. What we don’t want is rain or a one-sided hammering.
India have looked the best team in the tournament. England have produced two good performances, against West Indies and Bangladesh, but not played the best teams yet. India dislodging Australia quite comfortably was a sign for me. They dominated that game.
I would pick Ravindra Jadeja on Sunday for Kuldeep Yadav. Jadeja is too good an all-rounder in English conditions to be left out of the side. He is left-handed as well and now Dhawan is injured they only have right-handed batsmen. Jadeja could be used as a floater. He can bowl with the new ball or in the middle overs. If it spins he can be a real threat. He would add some more quality to India and make them a better side.
India have players who play more cricket under pressure thanks to the IPL. Pakistan play most of their cricket with nobody watching in the UAE. It is great the PSL is going back to Pakistan but I feel for their players because they do not play in front of packed stadiums. India play in front of the kind of crowds we will see on Sunday every time they go out on the park. They are just used to it.
Can Pakistan field better? They were awful against Australia. If they field like that again they will get a pasting. They also have to find the buzz they had at the end of the Australia innings when Mohammad Amir was operating at top-quality, Test-match bowling standard. Pakistan go flat too soon when someone starts playing well against them. They start to look inward when on the wrong end. But they should keep their heads high because they have dangerous bowlers. If India are 30 for two, and they get King Kohli out, then Pakistan have a great chance of beating them.
The actual day could get the better of Pakistan but somehow they have to go back and have the same mindset as the day they beat India in the Champions Trophy final. The coaches must ask, 'how did we cope that day?' If they can relive those memories then they can cause a shock.
It would be good for the tournament if Pakistan beat India. It will make qualification for the top four spots a lot more interesting. If India win then I believe we will already be down to just five teams for four places: India, Australia, New Zealand, England and the fifth being West Indies who look like they are struggling now.
What we do not want is 10 day’s worth of dead rubbers so for the World Cup to grab the attention we could do with Pakistan winning.
We all thought spin would be a massive advantage in this tournament but so far it has been the release option for the batting sides. Look at Adil Rashid, batsmen have attacked him.
Pace bowling partnerships have been key. The Wood-Archer combination for England, Starc-Cummins for Australia, Bumrah-Kumar for India and Boult-Ferguson for New Zealand. Combinations of pace have brought wickets for captains. If we have some dry weather spin might come into play for the latter stages but while it is moist and damp teams that can play the short ball well and have pace in their attack are going to stay on top.
So far it has been clear that batsmen do not need to gamble. You can knock it in the gaps and wait for your chance. The best batting display so far has been by England against Bangladesh. They held back early on and gave themselves a chance. The key is having a batsman go on to three figures. It is the old way of compiling a big score.
There are so many old-style tactics paying off in this World Cup. We have not seen many tricks or flicks. Ramp shots have not been required. It has been conventional, hard cricket shots that have been successful. Quick bowling, strong batting, running between the wickets hard and fielding well have been the key components. Teams that have played one-day cricket well since the 1970s have had those four traits. Nothing has changed, and that has been a surprise for all of us.