Mohammad Amir and Babar Azam speak with India's captain Virat Kohli. File/ AFP
Babar Azam's Pakistan will look to end their losing streak against India at the Twenty20 World Cup when the two rivals begin their title race in a Sunday blockbuster.
India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups. However, Pakistan come into the Super 12s contest with 10 wins in a row in the UAE and former Pakistan all-rounder Mudassar Nazar believes the team has struck the right balance to challenge Virat Kohli's India.
"A week ago I had apprehensions about the team but now they have made certain changes and they look a decent, well-balanced side now," Nazar said.
"Pakistan stand a very good chance as they have experienced players who have played a lot against India. India start as favourites and they have all the areas covered but in T20 anybody could beat anybody on their day."
Azam, who is in top form with two T20 centuries this year, believes his team can break the World Cup jinx. "Definitely we have played a lot of cricket in the UAE," Babar said when asked about his team's dismal 0-5 record against India in T20 World Cup clashes.
"These conditions suit us and we know how to play here. We need to keep things simple in all the departments." The two teams last met in the 2019 ODI World Cup in England as India only plays Pakistan in multi-nation events after cutting off bilateral cricket ties with their neighbours following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Fans from both the nations have shown immense interest in watching Sunday's game in Dubai as tickets for the key contest were sold out hours after they went on sale early this month.
Kohli, though, has downplayed the hype around the encounter, saying "it's just another game" of cricket. "I have always approached this game as just another game of cricket. I know there is a lot of hype created around this game more so with ticket sales and the demands for tickets," said Kohli.
India's two-time World Cup-winning skipper M.S. Dhoni is with the team as mentor and Kohli said the icon's presence in the dressing room will further "boost" their morale.
Dhoni led India to the inaugural T20 World Cup crown in 2007, beating Pakistan in the final, and hold a 7-1 advantage in the shortest format. Pakistan's only win came in a bilateral series which ended 1-1.
India head into the contest with two big wins against England and Australia in their warm-up matches with openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma scoring big runs.
Pakistan will depend on the experience of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik while Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the key at the top of the order.
The bowling, led by Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali, looks potent to trouble any opposition in the Super 12 stage.
"I think young players should see him as a role model as he is still competing with them in domestic events and that shows how mentally strong he has been. "He is looking good and that shows he wants to go on a high."
The Indian team, which lifted the trophy, did not feature stalwart cricketers likes Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.
Pakistan were kings of the sub-continent from the mid-1980s to 1990s with their on-field brilliance under Imran Khan, who led them to the 1992 World Cup, before India turned the tables.
A buoyant Scotland will begin their Super 12 campaign against a formidable Afghanistan in Sharjah on Monday. Scotland are brimming with confidence after advancing to the Round of Super 12 with two victories from three games in the first round.
The closing ceremony was graced by former Indian cricket team captain Mohammad Azharuddin, as Chief Guest, Dr M Rafiuddin, Convener, BITS Pilani Sports Festival, Prof. Srinivasan Madapusi, Director BPDC, Dr Priti Bajpai, Dean, Student Welfare, and students from various colleges and Media.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, it was contested by a field of 15 but very few ever managed to land a blow with Bernardo Pinheiro and Rebel Streak setting a decent gallop until Buckell, having pretty much stalked the lead throughout, committed for home entering the short straight.
An unbroken opening century stand by Abid Ali and debutant Abdullah Shafique gave Pakistan a solid platform after bowling out Bangladesh for 330 on day two of the first Test in Chittagong on Saturday.