LAHORE: Technically Wednesday’s Asia Cup clash between Pakistan and India is a dead rubber. For, there would be no impact on the final standings no matter which side wins the match.
This is because after having their matches against Hong Kong, both the South Asian giants have qualified from Group A for the Super Four, where they will meet Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who qualified from Group B at the expense of Sri Lanka.
The format of the tournament was kept as such to accommodate six teams for the continental cup, with a qualifying round preceding it, so that the largest possible number of teams could be involved – which is a positive step.
And so while the format has allowed teams like Afghanistan to take the next step and knock Sri Lanka out of the tournament, what it also means is that the match between India and Pakistan would not carry any significance in terms of who eventually wins the tournament.
But there is never really any dead rubbers when it comes to India and Pakistan. Definitely not amidst political tensions that have meant that no bilateral series have taken place between the two sides, which is why the ongoing Asia Cup itself was moved from India to the UAE.
Also, the match between India and Pakistan is not just a contest between the two rivals, it is also a matchup that features the two overwhelmingly favourite sides for the tournament. While the Indian contingent seems to be giving the impression that Pakistan are the favourites, their Pakistani counterparts have been saying the opposite.
This war of words ahead of the meeting also underlines its significance. In fact, the mind games began long before the tournament actually began when the BCCI complained about not having a rest day between the Hong Kong match and the one against Pakistan, while Pakistan would have three. Following suit, captain Sarfraz Ahmed has criticised the fact that India won’t have to travel to Abu Dhabi for their matches, and will play all their matches in Dubai, while Pakistan have to manage the 90-minute trips.
While Bangladesh, and perhaps even Afghanistan, might have other ideas, it is becoming even more likely than it was at the start of the tournament that the truly momentous India Pakistan clash would come in the final, with even the Super Four matchup looking like a prelude to the grand finale.
And yet, again, there are no preludes, dead rubbers, or anything of the sort when it comes to the most popular contest in all of the cricket and one of the most popular clashes in all of sport.
India might be without Virat Kohli for the tournament, but their batting line up still is the most formidable one in the tournament by some distance. The match would once again be between the Pakistani bowlers and the Indian batsmen, and whoever comes out on top would have the psychological edge over the other in the rest of the tournament.
Even so, the match is also a chance for the Pakistani batting to prove their credentials and showcase that the Champions Trophy final was no fluke and that they can score big against big sides in big tournaments regularly.
It’s all to play for when India and Pakistan clash.