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Asia Cup 2022

India or Pakistan – Which team is better placed ahead of the T20 World Cup?

Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

Pakistan pipped India to make it to the final of the 2022 Asia Cup, but which of the two teams are in a better place ahead of the T20 World Cup?

India and Pakistan do not play bilateral series anymore. In 2018, the Asia Cup organisers had tried to maximise the probability of three India-Pakistan clashes by first pitting them in the same group, then arranging for the Super Fours. On that occasion, Bangladesh played outstanding cricket to eliminate Pakistan. The organisers attempted an encore, only for Sri Lanka to arise from an initial defeat and not only seal a berth in the final but also win the trophy.

India and Pakistan beat each other once in this edition. Before the final, they beat Hong Kong and Afghanistan, and lost to Sri Lanka. Pakistan also lost to Sri Lanka in the final. As a result, India (3-2) ended up having a better tournament than Pakistan (3-3), but Pakistan won the right matches to ensure a berth in the final.


This is not the first time India had to return from a tournament without silverware despite doing as good as anyone else. In the 2015 World Cup, India lost once – the same as the finalists, Australia and New Zealand. In 2019, they lost two matches, the fewest among all sides. They failed to make it to the final in either edition – because they lost the wrong matches.

There is little doubt that Sri Lanka were the team of the Asia Cup. But were Pakistan better than India? The numbers certainly disagree. India scored at 9.0aga9 an over and conceded 7.69 in the tournament, while Pakistan scored at 7.79 and conceded 7.36. Take Hong Kong – the only Associate Nation – away, and India’s numbers read 8.96 and 7.72, and Pakistan’s 7.41 and 7.77.

Once again, India lost the wrong match: it came down to not whether they played worse than Pakistan but which of the two matches they won against Pakistan.

But enough of formats and fairness. Let us return to the Asia Cup, one of whose purposes was to help the teams prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia. In fact, the Asia Cup oscillates between fifty- and twenty-over formats depending on the upcoming ICC global tournament.

India’s takeaways from the Asia Cup 2022

Ahead of the tournament, India were probably certain to back Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel for the death overs in the tournament. India struggled in the death overs at the Asia Cup. They had to use Bhuvneshwar Kumar for that. The butterfly effect meant Bhuvneshwar – who has the best economy rate in all T20 (with a 1,000-ball cut-off) and T20Is (500 balls) – bowled an over fewer in the Powerplay than India would have liked to.

At the same time, the desperate situation also resulted in them finding Arshdeep Singh. His last overs against Pakistan and Sri Lanka might have gone in vain, but there is little doubt over his ability to bowl yorkers and vary pace without visible change of action. He has probably done enough to ensure Harshal is not an obvious choice anymore.

What about batting? KL Rahul disappointed in his first matches for India in the format. Virat Kohli finally got that long-awaited maiden T20I hundred, which boosted his tournament strike rate to 147. However, take that one innings out – it was, after all, against a jaded side that took field after 20 hours in a different city – and it drops to 122, while Rahul’s tournament haul stands at 70 from 67 balls.

In addition to Afghanistan, if one removes the Hong Kong match, Hardik Pandya (156 but for only 50 runs) and Rohit Sharma (149) are the only Indians to have struck over 125. Not a statistic they will be happy with.

India have glaring issues to address when it comes to batting. The Asia Cup was probably a one-off for Suryakumar Yadav (strike rate 182 this year). However, of the two other Indians with a strike rate in excess of 150, Sanju Samson is not part of the squad, while Deepak Hooda – if he plays – is almost certain to bat out of his preferred top order.

Pakistan’s takeaways from the Asia Cup 2022

Pakistan continued to back Asif Ali. In the three matches Pakistan won at the Asia Cup, he batted twice, for eight-ball 16s. In the other three, he got a seven-ball nine and two golden ducks. Asif’s ability to strike during his sub-10-ball stays is a necessity for Pakistan.

Pakistan need an Asif because both their openers, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, adopt an atypical approach in Twenty20 cricket. On an average, the duo faces 58 balls and score 74 per innings between them, while having all ten wickets in hand. It is a strategy Pakistan have backed for some time. Had Hasan Ali not dropped Matthew Wade, they might have played the final of last year’s T20 World Cup as well – and met New Zealand, whom they had beaten in the league stage.

Unfortunately, it caught up with them this time, never more than the consecutive matches against Sri Lanka. In the Super Fours match, they combined for 44 runs in 43 balls; in the final, Babar failed, while Rizwan scored a 49-ball 55, allowing the asking rate to soar past 15 by the time he fell. And barring the Hong Kong match, Fakhar Zaman’s tournament record stood at 43 runs in 52 balls.

Pakistan did try to change strategy, using Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, and Khushdil Shah up and down the order. Some experiments worked. Some backfired. But at the end of the tournament, Pakistan are left with a slower-than-par top three, followed by a middle-order expected to hit from ball one.

But while the batting looks tricky, the bowling does not, as one paceman after another stood up in the absence of Shaheen Shah Afridi. Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, and Mohammad Hasnain defied lack of experience to emerge as an attack probing and hostile as any in world cricket, while both Shadab and Nawaz ensured Pakistan got eight tight overs while not compromising on batting depth.

Whether the bowlers can keep the oppositions to scores low enough for Pakistan to trust the Babar-Rizwan strategy is something to be seen.

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