Batters hold the key in India-Pakistan clash, says Rashid Latif


In anticipation of the highly awaited India-Pakistan clash in the T20 World Cup on Sunday, discussions among cricket pundits have been less about the form of the two teams and more about the condition of the pitch at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York.

The drop-in pitch has raised many eyebrows. In the two matches played there so far, batters have faced a challenging barrage of hostile short-pitched bowling from the fast bowlers. The pitch’s steep bounce and excessive seam movement saw Sri Lanka collapse to 77 all out against South Africa. On Wednesday, India’s world-class bowling attack made short work of Ireland, bowling them out for 96.

With such conditions, there is a growing concern that fans, both globally and the 34,000 ticket holders at the stadium, might witness another low-scoring, one-sided affair on Sunday. This would be disappointing, especially since this match is supposed to be a celebration of cricket in the US, one of the co-hosts of the 2024 T20 World Cup.

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif expressed his criticism towards the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the substandard pitch. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Latif stated, “It’s obvious that the ICC were not fully prepared to deliver a good pitch. They are using a drop-in pitch at this stadium, so it takes time for it to settle down.” He highlighted the challenges faced by the batsmen against the pace bowlers on this pitch and doubted any significant improvement by Sunday.

Latif emphasized that the poor pitch conditions might spoil what could have been an exhilarating cricketing spectacle. “It’s India vs Pakistan, the biggest match in the cricket world. And this is not the way to promote the game in the US,” he added.

With both teams boasting high-quality pacers who are likely to exploit the bounce and swing, the match could boil down to which batting lineup demonstrates better technique and temperament. Latif noted, “Yes, that will be the key — how well the batters are going to cope with the challenge of tackling the steep bounce. India have a very good batting lineup, they have some world-class batsmen. But it’s not going to be easy. I think we will probably see a conservative approach from the batsmen.”

Reflecting on the previous T20 World Cup clash between the two teams in Melbourne, Latif reminisced about the thrilling match which had a pitch offering help to both bowlers and batters. The match is particularly memorable for Virat Kohli’s extraordinary knock of 82 not out off 53 balls, rescuing India from a precarious position needing 28 runs off 8 balls.

Kohli, who had a rare failure in India’s opening game against Ireland, could be a decisive factor once again. Latif praised Kohli’s recent performances in the IPL, especially his batting against spinners in the middle overs and his improved power hitting. “We have just seen Kohli perform at such a high level in the IPL recently. His batting against the spinners in the middle overs was tremendous, and I also saw a very big improvement in his power hitting. He is a touch player, but now he has added a new dimension to his game,” Latif said.

Latif also admired Kohli’s relentless desire to keep improving his game despite already being one of the all-time greats. “This is his greatness. He doesn’t just want to score runs at the highest level, but he wants to remain at his peak all the time. That’s why he is always trying to find ways to keep improving his game,” Latif noted, comparing Kohli to cricket legends like Wasim Akram, Vivian Richards, and Brian Lara, who all had a similar drive to remain at their peak.

In summary, the much-anticipated India-Pakistan clash could hinge on how the batters handle the challenging pitch conditions. With both teams having formidable pacers, the contest promises to be a fascinating test of skill, technique, and resilience.

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By- Sahiba Suri

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