New Delhi: Sport is war minus the shooting, George Orwell once wrote. If he were alive to watch India’s upcoming cricket match with Pakistan on 4 June at Birmingham, he might have considered himself vindicated. The cricket teams of the two nations will face each other on that day to play their first match in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. And for fans on either side of the border, this will be nothing short of an intense battle.

So, which team will have the upper hand in this high-voltage contest?

The data shows that India has historically dominated Pakistan in ICC tournaments. India has won all its matches against Pakistan in World Cup as well as the World T20s. But the only two losses that India has had to suffer vis-à-vis Pakistan in ICC tournaments have come in the Champions Trophy itself.

However, India’s overall record against Pakistan is not as impressive. The two teams have clashed in 132 one-day internationals (ODIs) so far, with India winning just 51 of them and Pakistan ending victorious on 72 such encounters, according to data from ESPNCricinfo. Excluding cancelled and abandoned matches, India’s win ratio against Pakistan in ODIs is thus a not-so-impressive 41.7%.

The good news is that India’s win record has been improving over time. Just as its win record against other countries has improved in recent years, so has its win record against Pakistan.

India has defeated Pakistan in two out of every three matches played in the current decade, i.e., from 2010 onwards. It needs to be borne in mind though that the frequency of matches with Pakistan has declined in this period, with only 9 matches since 2010 as against 40 matches in the 2000-09 period.

Who will be the players to watch out for on 4 June? In the nine matches played so far in this decade, three batsmen from each team have made more than 200 runs. Virat Kohli, unsurprisingly, leads the pack with 357 runs. But the 27-year-old southpaw Nasir Jamshed has the most impressive average of 88.75. Former Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni follows closely behind at 76.5.

Of the three Pakistanis in the list, their team will have the services of only Mohammad Hafeez since Jamshed is facing trial in a spot-fixing case and Misbah-ul-Haq has retired from international cricket. India will miss the services of Suresh Raina, who hasn’t been selected for the Champions Trophy squad.

Among bowlers, Saeed Ajmal has been the most brilliant outperformer in the post-2009 period, with 18 wickets in eight games against India at an impressive average of 16.88. Ishant Sharma is slightly better in terms of averages (16.55) but has taken only half the number of wickets as Ajmal. R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Junaid Khan and Ravindra Jadeja complete the list of top wicket takers. Except 39-year-old Ajmal who has not been finding favour with the selectors for the last couple of years, the rest of the bowlers in the top wicket takers’ list are part of their respective squads.

Pakistan may be missing several of the top performers of recent India-Pakistan encounters but India will do well not to be complacent. It must be prepared to face a tough test from Pakistan’s impressive battery of bowlers led by the fast bowling trio of Khan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir.

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