The arch-rivals are set to face each other on August 28 in their opening match of the Asia Cup 2022 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
One player that everyone will be keen to observe once again is Virat Kohli. Kohli might be going through a rough patch but Pakistan and the rest of the countries participating in the Asia Cup will not make the mistake of taking him lightly.
Pakistan, in T20I cricket in particular, know what Virat is capable of. He is the highest run getter for India in T20Is vs the Men in Green.
In 7 T20Is against Pakistan, Kohli has scored 311 runs at an astonishing average of 77.75, including three fifties.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with former Pakistan cricketer Danish, who played 61 Tests and 18 ODIs for Pakistan between 2000 and 2010, claiming more than 270 international wickets, to talk about how Pakistan would be perceiving the Virat threat this time and more…
Since November 2019, Virat Kohli hasn’t scored an international century. But he has looked good with the bat, getting starts – do you think the Asia Cup will be the turning point for him in terms of getting back to form?
Yes, definitely. I am just surprised by the decisions Virat made. He shouldn’t have skipped any international games. He should have been playing international cricket. He should have left half of the IPL season. Franchisee cricket is totally different from international cricket. I wanted to see Virat on the West Indies tour. He should have got his form back against the West Indies bowlers. He would have been more comfortable and confident before coming into the Asia Cup.
Now, (in the) India vs Pakistan (game), all eyes will be on Virat and his form. He has the backing of Rohit Sharma. He has the backing of coach Rahul Dravid. He can go and enjoy his game and he has been doing it. But he has to prove himself now. Because now all eyes will be on him and there are so many (other) players in the mix.
The Asia Cup could be a career-changing tournament for Virat Kohli, because the T20 World Cup is around the corner too. If he does well, he will go on a run-scoring spree for the next three-four years. He hasn’t scored a century in the last three years. He has had a rough patch, but he has scored runs. He has the 50s, he has the 60s. But he is Virat, a big name, a big brand. People want a big 100 from him. They want a big 200 from him. That’s the pressure Virat Kohli has right now. The players are playing too much cricket these days. Also because of the bio-secure bubbles, the players have become jaded.
Virat is doing everything right, he is spending maximum time at the crease, his style and technique are the same, and he is middling the ball perfectly, but he is not managing to put the lean phase behind him. He has to come out of it. Once he is out of that phase, no bowler will be able to bowl well to Virat. Virat’s class will be on display again and he will be a different player at the highest level again.
How important is this Asia Cup to Virat Kohli’s chances of contending for a place in the T20 World Cup squad? Will a poor Asia Cup campaign considerably jeopardise his World Cup spot you think?
Yes. BCCI has got a superb president in Sourav Ganguly, who has served Indian cricket and led the team for a long time. He knows Virat is a big-stature player. Everyone has gone through this phase. Even Ganguly has. He was out of form and he was out of the team.
Virat Kohli knows that if he doesn’t perform in the Asia Cup, it will be difficult for him to make it to the T20 World Cup. He had a lot of time. Let’s take the example of Cheteshwar Pujara. He was out of form, he went to county cricket, regained his lost touch and was selected (again) in the Test squad. When India went to England, Virat was struggling with his form. After that Virat had a lot of time between that tour and the Asia Cup. He should have used that time. He should have gone to play some tournament or County cricket. He is coming into the Asia Cup without playing any cricket. We don’t know about his form. We don’t know what he will do. We don’t know what will happen to him.
Virat will be like a debutant player on August 28 with immense pressure. If he manages to come out of that bubble, then he will flourish. The Pakistan team will not like it if Virat Kohli returns to form on August 28. But our (India vs Pakistan) history has always been like that – when a player is out of form and he plays against us, he regains his form (laughs).
The Asia Cup will be held in the UAE this time. Given the conditions on offer and considering this had been Pakistan’s home venue for a long time – Who do you see as the favourites to win the title and why?
It’s a T20 tournament. It’s not just India and Pakistan. We have Afghanistan who is a very good side in T20Is. They play fantastic cricket. They know how to play this format and they just love T20 cricket. The Sri Lankan team is there. Bangladesh is there and will be captained by Shakib Al Hasan. There are a number of teams. I hope India and Pakistan play the final too. Dubai conditions will not be the same as the 2021 World Cup because it is very hot at this time and the dew factor will not play a part this time.
That’s why Indian selectors have selected a balanced Indian team for the Asia Cup. They have selected a number of spinners in the squad. There are a lot of spinners in the Indian team. The spinners will be backed by an upcoming star of the Indian team – Arshdeep Singh and the man who can swing the ball both ways, Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The Indian team has a world-class off-spinner in R Ashwin. Ashwin can do wonders with both bat and ball in fact.
Yuzvendra Chahal was struggling with his form and now he is back and taking wickets. He is the man in form. He did very well in England. They have left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the squad. And India also has (Ravi) Bishnoi. He has done a very good job in the West Indies series. Bishnoi is a different bowler. Pakistan do not have a Bishnoi kind of bowler. Bishnoi is like Anil Kumble who is quicker in the air, he hcan bowl the googly and can generate top-spin. The Indian team has all kinds of players in their squad.
Would it be fair to say that India and Pakistan are the favourites to play the Asia Cup final?
Looking at the conditions, it looks like it will be an India vs Pakistan final. I hope it happens and everyone wants to see that because India and Pakistan hardly play against each other. Only in ICC events, do we see them. It will be a blockbuster if we see an India vs Pakistan final. For the title, we have to see how the first match goes. We have to sit back and look at how Pakistan play in Dubai conditions, and what team combination they opt for.
For India, what batting order they will go for? It will be interesting to see where they play Virat Kohli, where they play KL Rahul, where Deepak Hooda comes in, and where Dinesh Karthik would play. India have a lot of options. It is going to be a good headache for captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid (to decide these things).
The guy who can do wonders for Team India in the Asia Cup is Arshdeep Singh. Every eye will be on the spinners, but Arshdeep Singh is the one who will stand out. He is a fantastic bowler. Be it with the new ball or in the death overs, he is just fantastic. He is really good with his yorkers too. There will be a lot of pressure on the players but let’s see who succumbs to that pressure and who deals with it well. That’s India vs Pakistan for you. I am hoping the curators prepare a good pitch. It should be a high-scoring and high-voltage game.