India and Pakistan have met 14 times in the Asia Cup. India hold an 8-5 win-loss record against the Men in Green. One game ended as a no-result between the two teams.
The last time when India faced Pakistan in international cricket overall was at the 2021 T20 World Cup when the Virat Kohli-led team suffered an embarrassing 10-wicket defeat.
With the next edition of the high-octane blockbuster set to be played on Sunday, TimesofIndia.com caught up with Kaneria, who played 61 Tests and 18 ODIs for Pakistan between 2000 and 2010, claiming more than 270 international wickets, for an exclusive interview to talk about the mouth-watering India vs Pakistan clash, Shaheen Afridi and Jasprit Bumrah’s absence and much more…
India and Pakistan will lock horns on August 28. The last time these two teams played a T20I was in the T20 World Cup where Pakistan won by 10 wickets. Who will have the upper hand this time around you think going by current form etc?
As per the current form, India. India have been playing a lot of T20 cricket. They have made so many changes to their squad, their captaincy and management. They have managed to build their A, B, and C teams. On the other hand, Pakistan have not been able to build a single team. They are struggling. Now, Shaheen Shah Afridi too has been ruled out from the Asia Cup squad due to injury, India will have the upper hand. Pakistan will be missing their wicket-taking bowler. Shaheen Shah Afridi was the only wicket-taking bowler, who takes wickets, puts pressure, and makes an impact and other bowlers can revolve around him. India are going into the Asia Cup with a strong mindset, bringing spinners into play. They have the likes of R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Ravi Bishnoi. The bowling department looks solid for India.
India’s batting is as solid as their bowling. KL Rahul seemed to have regained his touch the way he batted against Zimbabwe (in the third ODI). He scored 30 but with the kind of shots he played, it looked like he was coming back into form. It is a good sign for Team India but it is not a good sign for Pakistan. Pakistan’s problem is their batting order. Babar Azam and Mohd. Rizwan are the two names that come to our minds. They are the ones who can do wonders for Pakistan.
Apart from Babar Azam and Rizwan, others are not getting runs. Khushdil Shah is a young talented player but Haider Ali and Asif Ali are playing in the leagues in Pakistan and they have not scored enough runs. Their performance is down and they are not performing. That’s a worrying sign. Pakistan recently played a weak team like the Netherlands. Netherlands’ top 6 players weren’t there. It was like a club (team) bowling in the Netherlands. The Netherlands lost the series because of inexperience but still dominated Pakistan. Netherlands bowled Pakistan out for 206 in the third ODI. Pakistan batters were seen struggling against them. Pakistan bowlers were seen struggling while searching for wickets too. Only Naseem Shah could put up a good show. He is a guy to watch out for in the Asia Cup. India will be facing him for the first time. He is a quick and talented bowler. He will be the man to watch out for in the tournament. India will have an upper hand. India will have 70 percent (chance of winning) and Pakistan will have 30 percent. I am giving Pakistan 30 percent because Babar Azam is in tremendous form.
In that match in the T20 WC (India vs Pak in 2021) Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan finished off the match in less than 18 overs – While Babar is universally seen as one of the best batters of this generation, Rizwan sometimes doesn’t really get all the credit he deserves – your take on how much he has improved as a batter since his international debut in 2015…
Cricket history has always been like that. A wicketkeeper-batsman or a spin bowler doesn’t get that recognition and limelight that a proper batsman and a fast bowler get. This has always been the case. But you are right, Rizwan plays astonishing innings. He is a fearless cricketer. His strike rate is better than Babar Azam’s.
Image credit: Reuters
Babar Azam gets runs but his strike rate is low which is a concern. He builds innings and gets runs for his team but the strike rate is low. Rizwan should get more credit which he is not getting. And he doesn’t mind that. He is such a beautiful character. He is a wonderful character, he manages his workload really well, his fitness is good, and he is a quick learner. He should get more recognition. He revolves around Babar Azam. When Babar Azam taps and blocks the ball, that pressure is soaked up by Rizwan. In the future, you will see Rizwan will succeed a lot.
What impact will Shaheen Afridi’s absence have on Pakistan at the Asia Cup?
That’s a very good question. Pakistan are struggling at the moment. Naseem Shah has to lead from the front in the bowling department. Some of the Pakistani greats are saying that if Shaheen Afridi isn’t available, then bring back Mohd. Amir. I don’t see any reason to bring back Amir. It is better to give the opportunity to someone who is doing well in the domestic circuit.
Amir didn’t play a single PSL game this season. He was unfit and he played a couple of county cricket games. Apart from that, he also gave statements against Misbah Ul Haq, Waqar Younis, Ramiz Raza, etc. So, I don’t think he will be coming back.
Jasprit Bumrah will not play in the Asia Cup this time due to an injury. Can Pakistan and other teams breathe a sigh of relief?
Definitely. Bumrah is a fantastic, world-class bowler. He has been doing so well for Team India. He is an injury-prone bowler because of his action. But India have a lot of options. He might not be available (also) for the T20 World Cup in Australia. India have a lot of fast bowlers coming up the ranks. Initially, India had batters and spinners but now they have a lot of fast bowlers too. Umran Malik is there – the speedster. He is raw but the speed is there. Harshal Patel is another guy. He is injured and out. But you have Prasidh Krishna. India have Deepak Chahar who has just made a comeback from an injury.
Jasprit Bumrah (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Pakistan can actually breathe a sigh of relief as they don’t have to face Bumrah this time, though Babar Azam and Mohd. Rizwan played Bumrah really well in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Harshal Patel is another bowler who bowled really well in the IPL. Pakistan batters must be relieved that two of the finest bowlers aren’t part of the India squad for the Asia Cup. I have been saying this – don’t play Shaheen Shah Afridi regularly because he will get exhausted. Pakistan need to take care of their players like India does.
India rotate their players. They care for their players. But the policy in Pakistan is so bad that if you rotate someone that means they are out of the team. That’s why we don’t have a B team. Our bench strength is so weak. We don’t have a replacement for anyone. If anything happens to Babar Azam, who will replace him? Do we have a player of that stature ? We don’t have that. Who will replace Rizwan if he is injured or unfit? Mohd Harris? Harris is playing but could manage just 10 runs in (his last) 6 games. They had Sarfaraz Ahmed. They didn’t play him. They included him but he was just sitting out. That’s how Pakistan are dealing with players.
Shaheen Afridi’s absence will hurt Pakistan and it will benefit other teams, including India as well. Pakistan are going to miss Shaheen’s services badly in the tournament. Naseem Shah took a five-for against the Netherlands and is looking good. I hope he makes an impact. Pakistan will struggle in their fast-bowling department after Shaheen’s exit.
Man for man, which team has the better fast bowling attack when at full strength currently – India or Pakistan?
India have a lot of bowlers. Not just at the Asia Cup, they have very good options overall. They have a backup for every player. India are taking care of their players very well. Pakistan are going with pacers. India are going with three pacers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, and Avesh Khan. India are heavily relying on spinners to dominate in the tournament (Asia Cup).
If you look at the evolution of the Indian and Pakistan cricket teams overall across all formats over the last decade or so – which team, would you say has made the most amount of progress in which departments?
As far as progress is concerned, it’s of course India. Pakistan didn’t produce any leg-spinners. When they did, they made him sit out. They didn’t give their batters many opportunities. Selectors come and address the media, saying Shan Masood should do more. They say that they are not confident about Masood’s form and he needs to deliver more. Masood is playing county cricket; he is performing there and he is consistent. He is doing so well there. He is the fittest guy and a brilliant fielder. He is a team man. And these selectors are saying we will see him and will give him a chance in the middle order.
Image credit: BCCI
If you look at India, after the 2021 T20 World Cup, Virat was out of form, Rohit had a niggle, Bumrah was out with injury, and the selectors and management gave others the opportunity and developed the cricketers. Within a year’s time, they have developed so many cricketers. You see there is a huge line of players. If Rohit is not available, Shreyas Iyer is there. If Virat isn’t there, Shubman Gill will take his place. If they didn’t have Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja as finishers, they developed Venkatesh Iyer and Sanju Samson. The Indian team doesn’t cry. If Bumrah isn’t there against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, they don’t say who will bowl then? They have a number of options. They say confidently that yes, we have Arshdeep Singh. That’s why India have A, B, and C teams.
Babar Azam or Virat Kohli – who is the best amongst these two batters? In general, this debate is played out on social media. What is your take on who the superior batter is and why?
Virat Kohli has done tremendously well throughout his career. Why we are discussing Virat is because he has done something in his career. He has done wonders; he has won games for Team India. He doesn’t have an ICC trophy (as captain) under his belt but you see his batting stats are brilliant. He has a plethora of runs to his name. Babar Azam is another fantastic cricketer.
Virat is out of form currently and Babar Azam is in amazing touch. He is getting runs in every game. As a cricketer myself, I will not compare them. Only when these two will hang up their boots then we will see the stats, then we will have a clear picture of who has done much more for their country and who is superior. Babar and Virat are always there at the top. People love their batting and their batting techniques.