CHENNAI: Pakistan have two perfect records on the line in their World Cup clash against Afghanistan on Monday. They’ve won both One-Day Internationals they’ve played against India in Chennai, while they boast a 7-0 record against the Afghans in ODIs.
So when they face their counterparts from the northwestern border at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, they will enter the game as favourites on paper.
Apart from the on-field calculations, however, the Pakistan-Afghanistan cricketing rivalry has developed some needle to it and the duo have been involved in some feisty thrillers in recent times.
The last time they met at the World Cup was four years ago in Leeds where Pakistan clinched a three-wicket victory with two balls to spare; sparking riots between the two sets of fans outside Headingley.
At the Twenty20 Asia Cup last year, where Pakistan edged the Afghans in yet another nail-biter, Afghanistan pacer Fareed Malik and Pakistan batsman Asif Ali almost came to blows.
There was another keenly-contested clash between the two sides in Hambantota in August, where Pakistan edged their neighbours by a wicket in the second game of a three-match ODI series they swept.
Apart from the fact that both teams need a win to revive their respective wins, the game is being played in the backdrop of stormy political ties between the two countries.
Pakistan has seen a sharp rise in militant attacks since the Taliban came back to power in Afghanistan in 2021.
The militant assaults have been focused in regions abutting Afghanistan, and Islamabad alleges some are being planned on Afghan soil — a charge Kabul denies.
Pakistan has also recently announced a plan to evict hundreds of thousands of Afghan migrants living in Pakistan.
“I think for them [Afghanistan players] it’s a rivalry that excites them,” Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott told reporters on Sunday.
“I think it’s a rivalry that sometimes in the past has been very passionate. We’ve had very close games as well. Hopefully tomorrow isn’t very exciting and we win by a lot. It’s just the nature of the rivalry, I should say. Both teams, I think, respect each other, but are very desperate to win.”
After consecutive defeats against India and Australia, Pakistan are desperate for a victory as another slip up will severely hamper their ambitions to reach the semifinals of the tournament.
Afghanistan pulled off a shock victory over defending champions England but have also slumped to three defeats.
Pakistan are looking at the past, hoping to continue their streak despite the fact that Afghanistan’s spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeebur ehman and Mohammad Nabi can kick up a mayhem at a venue renowned as a slow bowlers’ paradise.
“We know this ground favours spinners and they have quality spin bowlers but we have beaten them 3-0 recently in a one-day series in Sri Lanka under the same conditions,” Pakistan opener Imamul Haq told reporters on Sunday.
“We all know Afghanistan is a good team and in these conditions they will be tough but we are ready for that and will execute our plans.”
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2023