Mitchell Johnson: Dicey deck awaits world cricket’s biggest rivals

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
4 Min Read
India will look to put Pakistan to the sword.
India will look to put Pakistan to the sword. Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

The most anticipated match of the T20 World Cup is here and if you plan on watching India against Pakistan from New York on Sunday night, you will be one of about 400 million people doing the same across the world.

Is it the biggest rivalry in world cricket? I’m prepared to concede it is, at least when it comes to the white-ball formats.

But if we’re talking Test cricket, then nothing beats Australia v England and the history that surrounds the Ashes.

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Having played in it, I still believe Ashes cricket is the pinnacle. It’s the format that tests players the most, over a five-match series and has a certain aura that surrounds it. There is something to talk about from every Ashes series that’s ever been played.

India and Pakistan don’t meet each other in any bilateral cricket and have not played a Test against each other since 2007. So it is hard to compare with the Ashes but they are both great rivalries in their own right.

When India and Pakistan meet in World Cups, it’s always something special. It’s a complicated rivalry and with their big populations and expats around the world, they always have huge support no matter where they play.

Although it’s not over for Pakistan after their shock super-over loss to the United States, they will find it tough against India.

The only thing that might change the course of the game will be the much talked about pitch at New York’s pop-up ground at Long Island, labelled dangerous by some after uneven bounce marred the low-scoring games played there so far.

Pakistan absorb their loss to the US.
Pakistan absorb their loss to the US. Credit: Matt Roberts-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

India have already had a taste of what to expect there and if they are concerned, then I think that opens the door for Pakistan.

Why? For me, when India start to worry about the things they can’t control, they tend to lose focus on what they need to do in the middle.

If they are concerned about the pitch and not focused on job at hand, then we could see yet another upset in this World Cup.

The Indian players have also come straight from the Indian Premier League played on 200-plus belters. This is a completely different story.

In the end, both teams will have to deal with the same surface and whoever does it best will probably win.

Everything is on the line for both teams and we will see passion and fire.

I’m not sure the deck is as dangerous as some teams have made out and, like I’ve always said, there’s nothing wrong with a fair contest between bat and ball – even in Twenty20 cricket. As Ricky Ponting said, teams and batters simply need to reassess their expectations of high scores and play to the conditions.

Even though India are ranked the No.1 T20 team in the world, this is a pressure game. Pakistan will come out fighting after their surprise early defeat and, as with most meetings between these two, this will be like a final.

Pakistan are still a team to be concerned about and if they get off to a good start, anything can happen and that door will be ajar.

Everything is on the line for both teams and we will see passion and fire. Well, that’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

Speaking of rivalries, it’s funny how we have four groups of five teams at this World Cup, yet India and Pakistan in Group A and Australia and England in Group B have landed together. The United States meeting Canada in the opening match was also a convenient start to the first World Cup hosted by the US.

In fact, this is the fifth T20 World Cup in a row where India and Pakistan have landed in the same group.

It’s very hard to find any information on how the 20 teams were separated into their groups. There certainly wasn’t a televised draw like for soccer’s World Cup.

Maybe it’s justified in a less-than-ideal world where the two Asian powers only meet at ICC events.

Meanwhile, I wrote last week that teams needed to beware of the USA at this tournament and their win over Pakistan has given them a shot at going through to the Super 8s.

Although it is still early on, the Americans are sitting in a great position with two wins from two. You need to start well in a T20 World Cup and then use that momentum and confidence. Then anything can happen.

What I have enjoyed about the USA’s style of play is their fearlessness. It doesn’t matter to them that they are playing against fully fledged countries, experienced teams with plenty of cricket under their belts.

Super overs are about tactics, but mostly about pressure and to deal with that situation better than Pakistan will give them even more confidence moving forward.


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