Manchester: All fans travelling to Manchester had their eyes on the sky hoping that the India-Pakistan clash, which they consider as the mother of all cricket battles, will happen at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Unfortunately on arrival, they have been greeted by rain.
The Pakistan team were forced to train indoors at the Old Trafford ground.
The India boys travelled by bus from Nottingham and arrived here on Friday. They were expected to train on Saturday from 10am.
Rishabh Pant, the standby for the injured Shikhar Dhawan, had also arrived.
Tickets were being re-sold at $6,000 (Dh22,035) apiece.
The projected television audience for this match will be more than one billion.
Cheerleaders for India and Pakistan have also arrived. Pakistan-born Mohammad Bashir, known as ‘Chacha Chicago’, a hard-core Mahendra Singh Dhoni fan, is in town.
Dhoni always ensures that he is given a ticket for every match that he plays before the first ball is bowled.
Though the Pakistan team were focused on getting some practice, their major discussions were on how they should take on arch-rivals India on Sunday.
Cricket experts and former cricketers have all been voicing their views on what should be the playing XI. All of them want Pakistan to end the jinx of losing to India six times in the World Cup.
Calls to drop Pakistan’s experienced batsman Shoaib Malik for the match had gained momentum. His average of just 14 in England has been one of the main reasons that could result in him losing his place in the team.
Malik has always been one of the most consistent scorers against India. In the 2018 Asia Cup match at the Dubai International Stadium against India, he top-scored with 78 runs. However his knock went in vain as India won by nine wickets. In the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy match at Centurion, he cracked 128 against India to ensure a 54-run win for his team. Under these circumstances, to drop a player such as Malik would be a tough decision.
Pakistan fans expect a lot from him as he is also one of their most experienced players. Legendary pacer and former coach and captain, Waqar Younus, in his column for the ICC website, said: “They [Pakistan] might go for five bowlers, use four pacers and Shadab (Khan) and drop someone like Shoaib Malik.”
What Pakistan fans want from their batsmen is not to through away their wickets like Imam-ul-Haq did by pulling a wide delivery to get caught.
Meanwhile, skipper Sarfaraz Ahmad has done a thorough study on the team’s performance against Australia which ended in a 41-run defeat at Taunton. The Pakistan captain fought valiantly until the end before being run out for 40.
He has been under severe criticism for dropping spinner Shadab Khan to include Shaheen Afridi. Many felt that since the Australians are known to be good players of pace and not comfortable with spinners. Shadab should have been included in that match.
According to Sarfaraz, it was the grass and bounce that got him to leave out Shadab, and he tried to justify his action by pointing out that Australia too had dropped Adam Zampa. But his justification had no takers since Pakistan players play spin well unlike the Australians who have struggled against a good spin attack.
Safaraz has also backed Asif Ali who had a bad game against Australia saying that a tough day in office is part and parcel of any sportsman.