PALLEKELE: In a highly anticipated showdown, the Asia Cup 2023 is set to witness a high-voltage clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Both teams are gearing up for an intense battle, and this match carries significant importance in their World Cup preparations.
The stage is set at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in the picturesque surroundings of Kandy, Sri Lanka. This venue, which saw a sparsely populated stadium during Sri Lanka's game against Bangladesh, is expected to be packed to the brim as fans from both nations gather to witness this fierce inter-continental rivalry.
While the Asia Cup has already seen a couple of matches, the true excitement is expected to kick in when Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam, the respective captains of India and Pakistan, step onto the field for the toss.
Due to the current political situation, bilateral cricket has been on hold between these two teams, making this encounter even more special. Fans are eagerly hoping for not just one, but potentially five clashes between these rivals over the next ten weeks. It's worth noting that they haven't faced each other in an ODI since the 2019 World Cup.
The anticipation is so high that flights to Colombo from all corners of India have been overbooked in the past couple of days. Some Indian fans have even been spotted in Kandy, desperately searching for last-minute tickets, an expense they are willing to bear for this momentous match.
The weather forecast for the day suggests a possibility of frequent interruptions, which is a cause for concern for both teams and fans worldwide. Everyone is hoping for a full game, as there's more at stake than just pride in the outcome.
For India, this match is an opportunity for Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah to not only prove their fitness but also regain their form after lengthy injury lay-offs. Bumrah did feature in the T20I series in Ireland last month, but Shreyas hasn't played a competitive game for over six months.
With Shreyas returning after his hiatus and Ishan Kishan taking up a new role at No. 5, the top three Indian batsmen will carry the responsibility to make an impact against Pakistan's formidable pace attack, which has been in top form.
The match is being billed as a showdown between India's top three batters and Pakistan's pace trio, with both units appearing in fine form during their training sessions on Friday evening.
India's selection for the remaining pace-bowling slots will be intriguing, with Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Shardul Thakur vying for two spots. The batting depth offered by Shardul Thakur at No. 8 could be a crucial factor in the decision.
Here are the squads for the match:
Captain: Rohit Sharma
Vice-Captain: Hardik Pandya
Players: Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K.L. Rahul, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.
Captain: Babar Azam
Players: Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Saud Shakeel.
The match is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., and cricket enthusiasts around the world are eagerly awaiting this epic clash in the Asia Cup 2023.