India took a big call by picking Dinesh Karthik ahead of Rishabh Pant as skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to field first against Pakistan at the Asia Cup in a landmark 100th T20 international for Virat Kohli on Sunday.
The high-octane clash of the Asia Cup tournament between the arch rivals has already attracted a huge crowd with almost equal fan presence at the Dubai International Stadium.
The focus remains on the 33-year-old Kohli, who will look to overcome his recent troubles with the bat as he makes his return from a break. He is only the second player after New Zealand’s Ross Taylor to play a century of international matches in all three formats.
India opted for Dinesh Karthik as wicketkeeper in place of Rishabh Pant, while Avesh Khan makes the XI as the third seamer.
“Honestly, I don’t think the toss is that important, we are just here to play good cricket,” Rohit said.
“We’ve played here in the IPL (Indian Premier League), so hopefully the pitch will be good. It was a tough call we had to take between playing Dinesh and Rishabh.”
India lost their previous contest against Pakistan by 10 wickets in last year’s T20 World Cup at the same venue, but Rohit said they have learnt from their mistakes.
“This is an important game for us, but as cricketers we don’t want to think about the opposition, we just want to correct whatever mistakes we are doing,” he said.
Head coach Rahul Dravid gave a pep talk in the team huddle after he joined the squad Sunday with a negative Covid report.
The batting great tested positive for the virus just before the team’s departure to the United Arab Emirates for the six-nation tournament.
Pakistan have handed a T20 debut to 19-year-old fast bowler Naseem Shah in the absence of injured quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Wasim.
“We would have also been bowling first, but this is not in our hands,” skipper Babar Azam said.
“We will look to make a big score and see. Three fast bowlers, two spinners and a debut for Naseem Shah. We are trying to give it our best.”
Pace bowler Hasan Ali joined the team Sunday in place of Wasim but remains on the bench.
The Pakistan team took to the field with black armbands to express solidarity and support for the people affected by floods back home.
India: Rohit Sharma (capt), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh
Pakistan: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Shahnawaz Dahani
Umpires: Masudur Rahman (BAN), Ruchira Palliyaguruge (SRI)
TV Umpire: Raveendra Wimalasiri (SRI)
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)
Inputs from AFP