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18 Junio 2017, 04:10 | Gerardo Tarin
The El Classico of cricket is upon us, India will look to defend their title while Pakistan in their first Champions Trophy final appearance will try to avenge their humiliating defeat on an opening day and prove doubters wrong. India have only lost 12 wickets in four matches, so the men further down the order have not had much time in the middle. Except the unpredictability quotient that comes into play when the Pakistan team is in action and the dynamics of the historic rivalry between the sides, the Indian side should see it through once again.
Kohli already has 27 ODI centuries to his name, with a career strike-rate in excess of 91, and such has been the passionate drive with which he has led India that his fortunes and those of the team as a whole now seem indivisible. For once, they behaved like gentleman, a requisite the game demands.
India topped Group B and booked their place in the semis by securing impressive wins against South Africa and Pakistan in the group stages.
Coming at time when political relations between the neighbouring nations has been volatile, the cricket buffs from across the globe are waiting with bated breath for the Sunday's titular clash.
While India's majority of the runs in the tournament have been scored by the top three, Pakistan have relied on their bowling attack to bring oppositions to their knees.
After Pakistan was thrashed by India by 124 runs two weeks ago, coach Mickey Arthur blamed "the magnitude of the occasion" for the fear his side showed.
While Indian skipper Virat Kohli revealed today that staying off social media during the tournament has been a key for him to stay focused on his cricket, Azhar says Pakistan are ready to embrace the hype and pressure of a match that looks set to break television viewing records for a Champions Trophy contest.
"I've played with synthetic hockey balls outdoors, but never tried hockey. They've been really special in the way that they've bought into the concept that we wanted them to buy into and the brand of cricket, and they've done exceptionally well at that".
India eased past Bangladesh to enter the finals while Pakistan got the better of better fancied England in their semi-final clash. It's how you prepare for the big games.
And it will be the battle between Pakistan's outstanding bowlers and a formidable Indian top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli that could decide the first major 50-over final between these neighbours. So what we've produced after that doesn't come as any surprise because that's how we trained, and that's what we worked at.
One concern for India is that there hasn't been much work for the likes of Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja to do with the bat and Pakistan could exploit this, if it gets early wickets in the final.
"It's just another game of cricket tomorrow, and whatever the result, we have to go forward and play more games after that". No one gave us a hope when we got here.
"I just know it'll mean a massive amount to them", he said.
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