With India-Pakistan Asia Cup Super Four clash happening in Colombo on Sunday, focus will be on how the Indian batters will counter Pakistan’s pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Afridi emerged as the stand-out bowler for Pakistan by taking 4-35 in skittling India for 266 in the Asia Cup Group A match at Pallekele last week. Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar spoke on how the Indian top order should prepare themselves to face Afridi in the upcoming highly-anticipated clash.
"Actually, the match between India and Pakistan was a very interesting clash between Shaheen Afridi versus India’s 1, 2, and 3. Gill, Rohit, and Virat. The opening phase had two spells; in the first spell before the rain had come, he was bowling typical Shaheen Afridi kind of deliveries. He was bowling further up the pitch, trying to get the ball to swing inwards, and that length was being played very well by Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma," said Manjrekar to Star Sports.
Though he tested openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, Shaheen got success after the first rain interruption in India’s innings. Shaheen found some movement to beat Rohit twice and finally got his man when the left-arm pacer got one to nip back in and hit the top of the right-handed batter’s off-stump through the gate.
In his next over, Shaheen cramped Virat Kohli for room on an attempted punch, to which the right-handed batter could only chop on to his stumps. It also made Shaheen the first bowler in international cricket to get Rohit and Kohli out via “bowled” mode of dismissal in a ODI match in his electrifying opening spell.
"Shaheen Afridi, instead of bowling it up further, which he thought was his main weapon – to bring the ball up further and have it swing, was being played very well by the Indian team and the Indian openers. After that, the rain happened, and Waqar Younis, who was in commentary with me, said that he should pull his length a bit back; it should be a little short."
"And after the rain, someone must have spoken to Shaheen Afridi, and after the break, he brought his length back and in that length, the good length, Rohit Sharma got out, and so did Virat. So it wasn’t the typical Shaheen Afridi kind of delivery that troubled the Indian batters, but the shorter length, meaning the movement from the pitch made them out," added Manjrekar.
In the last ten overs of the innings, Shaheen would take out Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja in the same over to lead a late Pakistan fightback and limit India to 266. "So they need to prepare for these kinds of deliveries as well, but for the main swinging delivery of Shaheen Afridi, the good news was that both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill weren’t phased by that," stated Manjrekar.
He also praised Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya for leading India’s fightback in the match. After scoring a majestic 210 against Bangladesh while opening the batting at Chattogram last year, Kishan showed a versatile side of him by making a sensible 82 at number five against Pakistan.
India were reduced to 66-4, before Kishan and Pandya, who made 87, stepped up in a pressure situation to stitch an important 138-run partnership. "See the match that happened between India and Pakistan, there was no result to the match, but it was a great result for India, and the main result which India wanted was that contribution from Hardik Pandya, the runs, and Ishan Kishan also played well. And the two of them played so well because it was out of character. Both Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya."
"And the talk about Hardik is that he is a very aggressive player, whenever he wants he can hit massive sixes, but for almost 70 minutes, Hardik Pandya was only taking singles and building his innings because he had to play conservatively. 50 overs cricket is a game of singles, especially the middle phase, it is a very boring phase for both the crowd and the players."
"But both Hardik Pandya and Ishan Kishan played that boring phase, played their innings well, and brought India to a respectable position. So that was a very good result for India, that partnership and how they forgot their natural game and kept the team's needs ahead of that. I think that was the best finding from that match," concluded Manjrekar.