Rohit vs Shaheen, Bumrah vs Babar, Kohli and…: 5 battles that’ll decide India vs Pakistan winner in Asia Cup 2023


After almost a year, it’s time for India vs Pakistan, but as big as the cricketing rivalry between these two nations is, it’s the individual battles that have always stolen the show. This is the best cricket team Pakistan have produced in years, while Team India has regained its full-strength squad in over a year. Benefiting from greater match practice, Pakistan make for a more cohesive unit although it doesn’t make India any less a favourite. On paper, they consistently possess an advantage, yet how their performance unfolds on the grand stage will be what truly ignites this spectacle.

Haris Rauf bowling to Virat Kohli or Shaheen Afridi steaming in against Rohit Sharma will make for fantastic viewing.(Getty Images)

India and Pakistan have consistently delivered edge-of-the-seat thrillers, and this excitement has amped up even further with the number of matches between the two teams reducing significantly over the last 10 years. With a star-studded line-up of 22 players poised for Sunday’s Asia Cup 2023 showdown, certain individual match-ups, like the ones outlined below, won’t be for the faint-hearted.

Indian openers and left-arm pacers are not a pair made in heaven. Recall the Champions Trophy 2017, World Cup semifinal of 2019 and T20 World Cup 2021… what’s the recurring theme? A left-arm pacer shredding India’s top order – Mohammad Amir, Trent Boult and Shaheen Afridi being the wreckers in chief. While Amir has retired and the Boult threat not resurfacing until the World Cup, the Shaheen threat looms over India. One of the most exceptional new-ball bowlers globally, Shaheen has masterfully crafted a reputation for claiming wickets in his first over.

Much like Virender Sehwag’s prowess with the bat, Shaheen mirrors that impact with the ball. And among his prized targets is none other than the captain of the Indian team, Rohit Sharma. Recent times have seen Rohit exhibit a touch of vulnerability against genuine pace due to his occasionally uncertain early footwork, something Shaheen is sure to have taken note of. Cast your memory back two years, where Shaheen dismissed Rohit for a golden duck in Dubai. However, in a 50-over match, seeing his back won’t be as effortless. Rohit’s resilience and ability to play the long game will undoubtedly make Shaheen’s job a more challenging pursuit.

2 Haris Rauf vs Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli’s consecutive sixes off Haris Rauf during the previous year’s T20 World Cup have etched their place in cricket history — it could well fall in the same league as Shane Warne’s ball of the century or Sachin Tendulkar‘s twin centuries at Sharjah in 1998. Yet, for Pakistan pacer Rauf, who boldly stated that Kohli might struggle to replicate those shots, this presents an opportunity for redemption. Following his remarkable five-wicket haul against Afghanistan, Rauf enters the arena with momentum. While the Indian batting line-up is nothing like their Asian counterparts, the clash of Rauf’s blistering pace against a red-hot Kohli’s batting promises a spectacle. Rauf recently dismantled New Zealand, achieving his career-best T20 figures but when has Kohli ever shied away from a challenge? As Virat makes a return to his most successful format, the impending duel between these two cricket giants undoubtedly guarantees to captivate the audience.

The last time Jasprit Bumrah bowled to Babar Azam, no prizes for guessing who came out on top? Babar smashed him as Pakistan brushed aside India by 10 wickets in Dubai. But hey! This isn’t 2021 anymore. The visibly fatigued Bumrah from two years ago is a far cry from the current version, revitalized, and raring to go. Babar started his Asia Cup 2023 campaign with a century against the lowly Afghanistan, but batting against India is a whole new level of competition.

Bumrah’s track record against Babar remains unblemished, and starting Sunday, he will be granted three opportunities this year alone to alter that statistic. Yet, even India’s pacer spearhead recognises the scorching form the Pakistan captain is currently in. Last year, India effectively curtailed Babar’s impact, with Arshdeep Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Ravi Bishnoi managing to dismiss the Pakistan skipper cheaply. The question now emerges: Can Bumrah join this exclusive list of successful dismissals? Or shall Babar reinforce his prowess against India once more?

The under-rated duel between Kuldeep Yadav and Iftikhar Ahmed has the potential to be a defining factor in the match. Iftikhar’s inclination towards powerful hits must certainly tantalise Kuldeep, and armed with an arsenal of variations, the left-arm wrist-spinner would be eager to employ his finesse and craftiness to outfox Ahmed. Despite the presence of stalwarts like Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar stands as Pakistan’s most in-form middle-order batter. However, it’s Kuldeep’s newfound confidence, blossoming under the Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid era, that elevates this confrontation into a must-watch spectacle.

This revitalised Kuldeep brings a breath of fresh air, and while he remains susceptible to conceding runs, his knack for taking crucial wickets remains a force to be reckoned with. A threat that aims to curtail the ‘Iftimania’ from taking over against India. The preference Kuldeep has been granted over Yuzvendra Chahal cements his status as India’s premier wrist-spinner and bolstered by recent figures of 3/28 and 4/6, Kuldeep enters this contest with an edge. Nevertheless, the intrigue lies in how he navigates his allocation of 10 overs. And when the spotlight shifts to Iftikhar on strike, the battle of intellect and skills will unravel in in full swing.

5 Virat Kohli vs Babar Azam

Not exactly a head-to-head contest, but how can we not have Kohli vs Babar amid an India-Pakistan game? The greatness of the legend Kohli and the genius of the emerging superstar that is Babar, is a treat for the sore eyes. If there’s one piece of news that has consistently captured headlines, it’s the ongoing comparison between Babar and Kohli, and even though Virat who has won this battle hands down, the fact that both will be pitted against each other in a format they love, makes this a mouth-watering contest. Who can forget the heartwarming visuals between the two after Pakistan beat India? Or Babar’s ‘This too shall pass’ tweet for Kohli just before last year’s Asia Cup? The handshake became fodder for memers to jump in as Kohli roared back to form while Babar’s own consistency dipped, or the fact that Kohli acknowledged the Pakistan captain as ‘the top batter in the world’. It’s crazy to think what this duel can unearth. It’s like Sunil Gavaskar vs Allan Border, or Ricky Tendulkar vs Sachin Tendulkar. Amid all the mini-battles, Kohli vs Babar might just take the cake.


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