DUBAI: Pakistan’s wicket-keeper Moha­mmad Rizwan says his side are striving to stay “brave and calm” for their second clash with India as the arch-rivals prepare for their next T20 Asia Cup showdown here at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

Babar Azam’s team crushed Hong Kong by 155 runs on Friday to seal their spot in the final four of the tournament, an entree to the T20 World Cup in October-November.

Afghanistan were playing Sri Lanka in the first Super Four stage match on Saturday in Sharjah, but it’s the much-awaited India-Pakistan battle that is expected to pack the Dubai stadium a day later.

“Playing India is always a pressure game. The whole world, even beyond Asia, wait for it,” Rizwan, who hit an unbeaten 78 against Hong Kong, told reporters on Friday.

“The pressure will be equally on India and us, but the result will be with whoever remains brave and keeps calm,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.

Pakistan posted 193-2 and skittled out Hong Kong for a paltry 38 in Sharjah to bounce back from their opening loss to India, who won both their matches in Group A.

“I tell players, whether you play India or Hong Kong, it’s a game of bat and ball,” said Rizwan, 30.

“So keep it simple. Yes, it’s a big game and our confidence is high but only hard work is in our hands, as the result is from God.”

Every India-Pakistan match draws packed stadiums and millions of viewers on TV and digital platforms.

The two rival nations only play each other in multi-nation events thanks to years of political tensions that have occasionally erupted into war.

Fans from both countries anticipate a third meeting in next week’s final.

“We have to play good cricket and make the final,” said Rizwan. “Our fans demand that we give our best and it is visible this time that the boys are giving it their all.”

Pakistan, over the last week, have grappled the conditions well in the UAE and the team has improved performance on every front after their outing against Hong Kong. Be it batting, bowling or fielding, the Pakistan players have shown distinct improvement. Though there is hardly anything to separate them on the UAE pitches but Pakistan seem to be more motivated to beat the archrivals India.

What is encouraging for Pakistan is the fact that they posted the highest total of the ongoing T20 Asia Cup so far and maintained the highest run-rate (3.811) at the group stage despite finishing second in Group B.

Pakistan fast bowlers especially Nassem Shah has created a ripple through stellar performances in the game’s shortest format after making debut in the India game while the spin duo of Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan have given match winning performances.

For India, all-rounder Hardik Pandaya, the chief destroyer in the previous encounter against Pakistan, will return to the side after sitting on the bench during match against Hong Kong.

Rizwan and skipper Babar played a starring role in their team’s 10-wicket win over India in last year’s T20 World Cup — a match that is still talked about on both sides.

DAHANI TO MISS TODAY’S GAME

Meanwhile, Pakistan suffered a new Asia Cup blow with fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani ruled out of the India clash due to a suspected side strain.

Dahani is the third Pakistan quick to be forced out with injury after Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Wasim left the team ahead of the six-nation tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

The team said Dahani’s injury “happened while bowling in the match against Hong Kong in Sharjah on Friday”.

“As in the case with any suspected side strain injury, the medical team will monitor him for the next 48-72 hours, following which they will make decisions, including carrying out a scan and further participation in the tournament,” read a team statement.

But it is feared that Dahani will have to sit out the rest of the matches, with Hasan Ali, who made the team in place of Wasim, his likely replacement in the XI.

Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are the other two teams in the Super Four from Group B after Bangladesh bowed out.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2022

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