India-Pakistan matches are rare and usually only found in global tournaments, and this combination of scarcity and high stakes often brings out the worst in both sets of fans. And, over recent years, the pre-match hysteria has often given way to one-sided anticlimaxes on the field. Lukewarm blowouts giving way to jingoistic gloating and poisonous finger-pointing – do we really need India-Pakistan cricket if this is what it is defined by?
It was clear then that these were two excellent T20 sides with contrasting strengths that aligned broadly with national stereotypes which had not always been accurate previously. On one side was a formidable batting unit with holes all over its bowling thanks to the absence of one key superstar; on the other a conservative top order that set its sights on par totals, confident in the ability of its high-quality, high-pace attack to defend them.
A clash of cricketing giants, and a clash of cricketing philosophies. What more could you ask for? Well, a World Cup setting, perhaps. And maybe a neutral venue that puts these philosophies to their stiffest test.
We have lucked out then, because Sunday will contain all these ingredients. Where better than Australia for the paciest attack in the T20I world to come up against some of the best players of fast bowling? Where better than the MCG and its 100,000-plus capacity for this to happen?
India LWWWW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
In the spotlight
India will have to make two big calls regarding the composition of their bowling attack. One is picking three out of their four specialist pace options. Then there is the issue of spin. Five out of Pakistan’s notional top-six are likely to be right-hand batters, but they often use Mohammad Nawaz as a floater to break that pattern. Should India pick their offspinner R Ashwin, then, or go with their preferred spin pair against right-hand-heavy teams?
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel/Mohammed Shami, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal/R Ashwin, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Arshdeep Singh.
Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Babar Azam (capt), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf.
Pitch and conditions
This suggests the toss may not be quite so crucial, though you would probably still expect the team winning it to chase. Also expect a lot of hard-length bowling, with bowlers encouraging batters to hit towards the long square boundaries and keeping them away from the relatively short straight boundaries.
Stats and trivia
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo