The stage is set for a grand finale as arch-rivals India and Pakistan lock horns one more time in the Champions Trophy title match at The Oval here today. For passionate fans of both countries it can't get any bigger than this.
Despite defending champions India beating Pakistan by a huge margin in the league phase, India skipper Virat Kohli feels that the result of that match will have no bearing on the final.
"I don't see any relevance of the first game because you can never tell how a particular team start a tournament. Some teams start very confidently and then fade off. Some teams might not have the best starts, and they come back amazingly, which Pakistan have done. So everyone is aware of the kind of talent they have in their team, and on their day they can beat any side in the world," said Kohli on the unpredictable rivals.
In recent times, no doubt India have had the better of their rivals, with the last win by Pakistan coming in 2009 at the Champions Trophy. The 13-2 advantage that India hold over Pakistan in ICC tournaments is a telling piece of statistics, which seems to undermine Pakistan whenever the two Asian neighbours come up against each other. Though form and history favour India, the resurgent Pakistan side have the capability of upsetting India.
However, it won't be a walk in the park for Pakistan. India are in great form with their top-three in the batting order having a great run and are among the top five run-getters in the tournament. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli have dominated the bowling of almost all the teams.
India skipper Virat Kohli dives to take a catch during a practice session on the eve of the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan at The Oval on Saturday. Pic/AFP
The other concern, if at all there, is the bowling form of Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin. They looked pretty flat in the semi-final against Bangladesh. But Kohli ruled out any possibility of making too many changes.
"We are not looking to change too many things. I would always back a guy like Hardik because he provides you so much balance. In these conditions, he can be very effective as a bowler and his batting is priceless. If you're chasing a total where you need to score at eight or nine an over and you've lost wickets, he's the guy who can still win you the game. That's the kind of belief he has in his ability and we have that belief in him," the skipper added.
All said and done, there is no doubt that it will be a cracker of a final, with Pakistan bolstered by the return of Mohd Amir who missed the semi-final against England.
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