But unfortunately, all other things in the world are not normal. And thus, no India - Pakistan match is anywhere close to a dead-rubber, at least for the ones who aren't playing the actual match. The two teams will clash for an assured two times - and potentially thrice - in the tournament, but it's the first meeting that's always full of hype and drama. For it's that match which breaks the often long gap between two India-Pakistan matches.
It means both sides will have to bring out their A game and be at their best. India didn't do that against Hong Kong on Tuesday and find themselves under a bit more pressure to raise their game. India would have perhaps thought of Hong Kong as a mere formality, and could have even hoped to finish the game as early as possible to extend their rest ahead of the Pakistan game.
Instead, they were made to play the entire 100 overs, with Hong Kong putting up a remarkable fight. There were stages where Hong Kong were on top, but didn't have the experience to convert those into a victory. But although they lost, they ensured India left the game with more questions than answers.
Those questions will carry into the game against Pakistan. Who are their middle order batsmen? India managed just 48 runs from their last 10 overs against Hong Kong although they got an excellent platform from Shikhar Dhawan, who made 127. Finishing innings in ODIs has been a long-standing problem for India, with MS Dhoni no longer the power-hitter he was, and the rest not standing up.
To solve that, India will almost definitely bring Hardik Pandya back. The all-rounder was rested for the Hong Kong game, having played four of the five Tests apart from the limited-overs series in England recently.
India still have issues in their bowling, as was evident against Hong Kong, who had an opening stand worth 174. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is just returning from an injury, and his effectiveness with the new ball without swing has come under the scanner in recent times. Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed made an impressive debut, but Shardul Thakur hasn't grabbed his chances.
Thakur will in all likelihood make way for Jasprit Bumrah, but whose place will Pandya take? Kedhar Jadhav is just one match into his comeback from injury. Dinesh Karthik scored 33 at No. 4, a position India are trying to fill with a permanent option. If India don't touch their batting combination, they'll have to remove one of Khaleel or Bhuvneshwar to make way for Pandya.
And what of KL Rahul? With Dhawan and Rohit Sharma settled, he'll have to take a place in the top order. But Ambati Rayudu scored 60 on comeback, and Rahul hasn't done much in positions below No. 3. There's also Manish Pandey who would want to make a case for the middle-order positions. India will have to answer all these questions and identify their first XI before getting into the next stage of the tournament.
On the other hand, Pakistan have looked more settled than they've been in the last few years. In Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik, they have solid batsmen, followed by Sarfraz Ahmed. Their bowling is well-rounded and balanced, with Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan and Hassan Ali taking care of the pace department and Shadab Khan as a potent leg-spinning option. Their bowling is so strong that they don't have a place for Junaid Khan in the XI.
India experienced Pakistan's bowling potent in their most recent clash - the Champions Trophy final last June, when India were shot out for just 158. Pakistan scored 338 in that game, but the big difference since then is the emergence of two Indian spinners - Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
The wrist-spin duo has found success all over and have given India wickets in the middle overs. Pakistan's batsmen are yet to face them, and how that battle pans out could well decide the course of this massive dead-rubber clash.
India: Rohit Sharma(capt), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, K Khaleel Ahmed.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Sarfraz Ahmed(capt), Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Asif Ali, Mohammad Amir
ambati rayuduasia cupAsia Cup 2018Babar AzamBhuvneshwar KumarFakhar ZamanHardik PandyaImam-ul-HaqIndiaIndia vs Pakistanjasprit bumrahKhaleel Ahmedkl rahulKuldeep YadavManish PandeyMS Dhonipakistanyuzvendra chahal
First Published: September 19, 2018, 12:30 PM IST