LONDON: Three weeks back it would have taken a very gutsy punter to even think about putting his money on an India-Pakistan final. However, this sport has seen stranger happenings and pushed to the wall, Pakistan have only kept rising. After defeating South Africa, Sri Lanka and England, they are back in London chasing a maiden Champions Trophy.
As the teams square off, Pakistan face an uphill task of beating an Indian side that hardly seems to take a false step. Apart from the defeat against Sri Lanka, they have played like favourites. Though Pakistan received good news in Mohammad Aamir being declared fit, India are now sweating over the fitness of Ravichandran Ashwin.
The off-spinner, while practising on Saturday, landed badly on his knee and was in considerable pain before being taken off. Although he returned half-an-hour later and went about business as usual, there is concern in the side. He played his role in India’s win over South Africa and Bangladesh. With Hardik Pandya also not in the best of form with the ball, injury scare over Ashwin might force captain Virat Kohli to explore other possibilities.
Kohli hinted that the team might not change the winning combination and chose to highlight what Pandya brings to the XI in the form of a batsman. “Not looking to change too many things, because I’ve said this before, I would back a guy like Hardik who provides you so much balance in conditions where he can be effective as a bowler. And his batting is priceless.
If you’re chasing a total and need eight an over and you’ve lost wickets, he’s a guy who can still win you the game. That’s the kind of belief he has in his ability and we have that belief in him. You know, he can give you a match-winning performance in any game that he plays, and he’s a gun fielder as well. It’s hard to find a package like that.
“You need to back guys like him regularly, and you will get results when the team is in crisis and he gives a match-winning performance. I would not think of changing anything at this particular stage,” Kohli said.