On Wednesday, Pakistan take on New Zealand in the first semi-final at Sydney’s iconic cricket ground. On the other hand, Adelaide Oval will host the second semi-final between India and England on Thursday.
Pakistani ex-stimulator Abdour Rauf Khan, who played three Tests, four ODIs and a T20I for his country between 2008 and 2009, believes Pakistan will have the upper hand against New Zealand, while Rohit Sharma’s India will struggle against England. Rauf has predicted a Pakistan-England final on November 13 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Looking at their overall record, Pakistan seem to have an advantage over New Zealand.
The two teams have met 28 times in T20I, with New Zealand winning 11 games and Pakistan recording victory on 17 occasions.
The last time the two countries met was in the T20I series final (involving Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh) in New Zealand, when Pakistan won the summit clash beating Kane Williamson’s men by five wickets.
In the World Cups (ODI and T20I), Pakistan is also backed by history. New Zealand have lost all of their previous World Cup semi-finals to Pakistan – ODI (1992, 1999) and T20I (2007).
Rauf believes Pakistan will also have an easy round to the semi-finals this time around.
“Pakistan are stronger than New Zealand. They will be the favourites. I’m not saying New Zealand is a weak team, but Pakistan is stronger than them,” Rauf said, speaking to TimesofIndia.com from Pakistan in an exclusive interview.
“Pakistan had no lead in the semi-finals. They lost crucial (group) games and then the Netherlands cleared the way for them (to have another chance for a place) in the semi-finals. What a remarkable turnaround it has been for Pakistan in this World Cup! The Pakistani fans had almost given up hope. The players were also demoralized and discouraged. But they are now refreshed and optimistic, and we all encourage them. I am sure that ‘they will continue to win the title from here,’ he added.
“ENGLAND FAVORITES AGAINST INDIA”
Rauf named reigning 50-year-old world champions England as “favourites” against the 2007 T20 World Cup champions. India, under MS Dhoni, won the inaugural edition beating Pakistan in the final.
In total, India and England have met 22 times in the T20I. India have won 12 of those matches, while England have emerged victorious on 10 occasions.
Looking at their last five T20I encounters, India lead England 4-1.
“The semi-final between India and England will be difficult. It will be difficult for India. England will be the favourites. They also have variety in their striking and bowling. England have a team stronger than India. I will choose Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes as game changers for England against India,” Rauf added in his chat with Timesofindia.com.
“England have a balanced squad. India will be under pressure.
“India will have to play very good cricket. They are relying a lot on Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav. Other Indian strikers especially Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will have to score in the semis. What if Virat and Suryakumar fail to score points? India will be in big trouble. The first players have to give the Indian team a solid base, and England have to stop Suryakumar and Virat from getting big,” Rauf said.
INDIA v PAKISTAN FINAL ON THE MAPS?
Fans and cricket pundits are predicting a blockbuster final between India and Pakistan, but Rauf felt that emotions should be put aside and the top two teams should come into the clash at the top.
“Who doesn’t want to see an India v Pakistan final? In fact, I want that too. Everybody wants that. The whole world would be looking forward to it. But I don’t see an India v Pakistan final happening, it will have many more viewers than the whole fifa world cup“, added Rauf.
“But let’s face reality and keep the emotions aside. England are a tough team, so India will have to beat a tough opponent to get to the final.”