Who'd have thought; an India-Pakistan final for the Champions Trophy tomorrow night.

Just think, it could have been New Zealand against India, had they not performed so poorly against Bangladesh which sent them scuttling out the door in the group stage. Then again, would New Zealand have beaten India right now? Possible, if New Zealand were bang on in all respects on a given day, but unlikely.

This is an India of rampant batsmen and a quality mix of bowlers who have made them hot favourites, now that England tumbled ignominiously out of an event they had looked shots on to at least make the decider.

You can have the Ashes, cricket's most storied international test rivalry, but India-Pakistan is the most vibrant, electric contest the sport can offer.


It's no wonder the International Cricket Council have admitted they routinely fix the global tournaments to ensure a meeting between the two, which generates huge television viewing figures and substantial advertising revenue. Ethically it's dodgy but financially understandable.

One billion viewers watched the group match in Adelaide at the 2015 World Cup; there are excited whispers that tomorrow's final will top that.

There's other, non-sporting elements to this event. Political factors have made it a dicey proposition at times down the years.

When you think back to what happened with the formation of Pakistan through partition from India back in 1947, and the forced resettlement of millions, the feuding down the decades over military and religious issues, it's a small miracle the two play cricket hugely competitively, but these days usually in a reasonably civil manner.

It's been a sporadic rivalry however. In 65 years of tests, since Pakistan played their first test in 1952, they've only met 59 times, 38 of which were drawn, including a staggering 13 matches in succession from November 1952 to October 1978. Talk about a snore. Fear of defeat ran seriously deep. Pakistan have won 12 tests to India's nine.

Their last test was in 2007, for heaven's sake. Enmity runs deep, at least at government level.

There have been 128 ODIs - of which Pakistan have won 73, India 50 - which is a relatively small number, considering their next-door-neighbour status. Then again, other issues have had a hand in that.

Their last bilateral one-day series was at the end of 2012. They are supposed to square off in India later this year, but that's all but been given away as a dead duck.

India are in top form, with fantastic batting strength, clever spinners and seamers who are a handful; Pakistan will start underdogs but have a funny way of lifting themselves when you might not expect it.

Cue the 1992 World Cup, and other tournaments since, such as the World T20 in England in 2009 when they lost two of their first three games, then roared through the next four to lift the trophy at Lord's.

So India to win; but with the rider that, er, it might just be Pakistan. They have good bowling and up and down batting, but when it's up, as in belting England a few days ago, then they are seriously dangerous. Plus, remember no team can more effectively conjure a heady performance out of unpromising parts.

New Zealand, meanwhile, will look on from afar. There's an important three months coming up for selectors and players.

There is an unmistakable vibe of discontent out there in New Zealand cricketland.

What selectors Mike Hesson and Gavin Larsen need to do is have a hard think about a clutch of players who too often have failed to deliver, and not for the first time.

Is it time to give the younger players thrusting their hand up a chance? Yes. It's all very well talking about what players are capable of, and even if they are occasionally classy operators, there's only so many chances they can be given before it's time to send them back to domestic cricket to reprove themselves.