Shubman Gill could return to top of India order against Pakistan

By Sports Desk October 13, 2023

India could welcome back Shubman Gill as they bid to continue their World Cup stranglehold over Pakistan in front of more than 100,000 fans and an audience of up to one billion viewers worldwide.

Fraught relations between the neighbouring countries mean their only showdowns in the last decade have been at multi-team events, with India winning seven out of seven contests at the 50-over World Cup.

They are favourites to extend that record at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, which will be a sea of blue as thousands of Pakistan fans have been unable to secure Indian visas.

Gill, the leading run-scorer in ODIs this year, may return for the tournament’s marquee fixture, having sat out India’s wins over Australia and Afghanistan after being laid low by a bout of dengue fever.

He batted in the nets on Thursday and India captain Rohit Sharma, a centurion against Afghanistan on Wednesday, said of his fellow opener: “99 per cent he is available. We’ll see.”

If Gill, who possesses an incredible average of 66.1 and 102.84 strike-rate from 35 ODIs, is selected then Ishan Kishan will almost certainly make way as the hosts look to make it three wins from three.

Rohit, though, refused to divulge whether India will restore Ravichandran Ashwin to the line-up and go with a three-prong spin attack also including left-armers Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

“I don’t know, honestly,” he said. “We are ready for whatever combination we want to play. If the requirement is there for us to play three spinners, we will play three spinners.”

Rohit also rejected the notion home advantage could count against India, adding: “You feel nice about playing in front of your home crowd. They get behind you no matter what the situation of the game is.

“My overall experience playing, not just in India, even outside India, we get massive support. I look at this as a good advantage, big advantage. But you’ve got to play good cricket to win the game.”

Pakistan captain Babar Azam needed no reminding of the one-sided nature of the rivalry, with India winning by 89 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method in their last fixture in Manchester in 2019.

But Babar insisted Pakistan can take comfort from their 2017 Champions Trophy final win over their adversaries as well as a stunning 10-wicket triumph at the 2021 T20 World Cup in Dubai.

“I don’t focus on the past, I try to focus on the future,” Babar said. “Such records are made to be broken and I try to break them.

“We were not able to execute in the past, but we changed it in 2021 and 2017. We won against India in the World Cup. We hadn’t done that before, but we did it.

“We believe that we can do it and we will go with full confidence.”

Babar is the top-ranked ODI batter in the world but has had a modest start to the tournament with innings of five and 10 in Pakistan’s wins over the Netherlands and Sri Lanka.

“My World Cup till right now has not been as it should have been,” he added. “But hopefully you will see some difference in the next matches.”

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