It`s Pakistani bowlers vs Indian batsmen: Akhtar
Karachi: Former speedster Shoaib Akhtar feels the high-voltage ICC Champions Trophy clash between Pakistan and India would be a battle between the former`s bowling prowess and the latter`s much-heralded batting line-up.
"For me, this high pressure match is a duel between their batsmen and our bowlers. We have an advantage over them not only in the pace department but also spin bowling," Akhtar said in an interview.
Pakistan and India will square off at Edgbaston, Birmingham in their Group `B` league match on June 15.
Akhtar said the calming presence of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will act as a big advantage for the Indians.
"Dhoni is a big plus for them despite all the recent controversies. And like always their batting has lot of depth and quality," he said.
Akhtar, who appeared in 46 Tests and 163 One-Day Internationals for Pakistan and was ranked among the fastest bowlers of the modern era, also heaped praise on India`s vice-captain Virat Kohli and described him as a "match winner".
"He is a match winner, there`s no doubt about that. He is a quality player. Even the presence of Rohit Sharma in the middle is not a good news for the opposition bowlers," he said.
Kohli had scored an impressive 120-ball 144 in India`s five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their Champions Trophy warm-up game on June 2.
Akhtar, however, had a word of caution for the Indian batsmen, who he believes would struggle to handle the English conditions, where the ball is expected to swing and bounce.
"People are talking about the advantage for players who have played in the Indian Premier League recently. But this is not the IPL and this is not India. This is the Champions Trophy and this is England and the Indian batting will be tested for sure," he said.
Akhtar, who always remained a colorful character throughout his career, criticised the decision of national selectors to drop senior players like Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Abdul Razzaq for the tournament.
"Players like Afridi and Razzaq are genuine all-rounders and match winners. They could have been very useful for Pakistan in the tournament. Unfortunately such players are given rest before time," he said.
Former Pakistan Test captain, Rameez Raja also felt that India have a more dependable and stronger batting line-up as compared to Pakistan.
"The good thing is Pakistan have a good record against India in the Champions Trophy. In an Indo-Pak match, the team which handles the pressure well wins because there is little to separate between them in such a high-voltage clash," he said.
Raja said pacers Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan will hold the key to Pakistan`s success in the tournament.