Preview: Champions Trophy Final: India Vs Pakistan on June 18

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London, June 17: India's remarkable consistency will be up against Pakistan's legendary volatility when the fierce rivals clash in what is expected to be an exciting finale to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, here tomorrow (June 18).

CT 17 special site; Photos; Rs 2,000 crore bet on final; Results

The often tense political relations between the neighbouring nations add colour to the bitter yet intense rivalry, which has nowadays been confined only to global events due to the Indian government's refusal to allow bilateral contests.

Indian players celebrate a wicket at Champions Trophy 2017

Defending champions India had got the better of the rivals in the league stage of the ongoing tournament. And captain Virat Kohli has already declared that nothing extra is needed to get the same result despite the turnaround by Sarfraz Ahmed's men since then.

Epic knock

It is nonetheless a battle of attrition, where one needs to hold the nerve till the very end. The last ball six hit by Javed Miandad off Chetan Sharma haunted a generation of Indian fans till Sachin Tendulkar returned the favour during that epic knock at the Centurion.

Read: Rs 1 crore for 30-second ad during final

In between, Ajay Jadeja, Venkatesh Prasad, Hrishikesh Kanitkar or Joginder Sharma have all played their bit roles in winning big matches thereby overcoming the Sharjah Syndrome that affected the Indian teams of mid 80's and early 90's.

Whether it's New Delhi or Islamabad, Karachi or Kolkata, this is one match that fans would hate to see their team lose.

Read: India win Champions Trophy 2013

For the 22 players in question, it's just a game of cricket. But for millions following them, it's way beyond that and is fuelled more by comments from former stars like Virender Sehwag or Rashid Latif.

Read: Can Kohli emulate Dhoni?

There could be unabashed love and unwarranted criticism in equal measures depending on which side one ends up. Even skipper Virat Kohli would tell one and all that they are "not here to make statements".

No match

On pure cricketing logic, Pakistan are no match for Virat Kohli's men, who have some of the best exponents of limited overs cricket. But just like in life, at times sporting realities defy logic which is exactly the reason why Sarfraz Ahmed's team can't be ruled out on a big day.

A lopsided opening round contest, which India won by 124 runs made many feel that Indo-Pak contests are fast losing their sheen due to lack of quality in Pakistani ranks.

An Azhar Ali is no match for Rohit Sharma in ODIs and Ahmed Shahzad doesn't have the consistency that Shikhar Dhawan has shown. Babar Azam is a new kid on the block while Virat Kohli, with 8000 plus ODI runs, is destined for greatness.

But Pakistan cricket swings like a pendulum, hovering between brilliant and ordinary, making a mockery of any kind of definitive analysis. And the pace attack of Mohammad Amir, tournament's leading wicket-taker Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan and Rumman Raees have the ability to rewrite history.

And this despite a dismal 2-13 record against India in various ICC tournaments (World Cup, Champions Trophy and World T20), which makes the 'Men In Blue' firm favourites.

Pakistan players at CT 17

India's batting line-up, as expected, has fired big time in this Champions Trophy with Shikhar Dhawan (317 runs) and Rohit Sharma (304 runs) topping the run charts.

Kedar and Hardik

Skipper Kohli, with 253 runs, makes it three Indians in top-5. Kohli is confident that his middle-order comprising Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, that has gone untested so far, will come good if 'Law of Averages' catches up with them.

"I am sure when Kedar and Hardik will put their hand up when situation arises. I don't think middle order not being tested is something to worry about," the skipper, who himself has been in sublime form had said earlier.

With two quality pacers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, both of whom have maintained less than five runs per over economy rate on flat decks, India have their bases covered.

Ravindra Jadeja's all-round prowess and the balance that Hardik and Kedar bring with their multiple skills, make it a complete side.

Defending the Champions Trophy will also be important as the on-field supremacy could also help India regain some lost ground off the field when the ICC Annual Conference starts a day after the final. In all, a lot to play for.


Squads

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav.

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain and wicketkeeper), Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan, Imad Wasim, Fahim Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail.

Match starts 3 PM IST - LIVE on Star Sports, DD National, Hotstar

PTI

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