Finally the fans have gotten what they wished for, an India-Pakistan game. Just two days to go for the mother of all games and the hype surrounding the same is unbelievable. An India-Pakistan encounter is a very rare occurrence these days, so every game carries huge expectations among the fans of both the countries. The politicians, the movie stars, the business tycoons all will be in attendance at Mohali on 30th of March for this mouthwatering contest.
The teams though would not want to fall into this hype. They would want to keep this game simple and concentrate on their performance on the field. They would want to stay away from all the commotion which surrounds this semi-final game. I pity New Zealand and Srilanka as they have hardly got any attention ahead of their semi-final game tomorrow. So let’s take a look as to how the two teams stack up for the game on Wednesday. Both India and Pakistan have had their ups and downs during this world cup. Pakistan though contrary to the pre-tournament predictions has had a wonderful world cup. Except for the one slip up against New Zealand, they have done exceedingly well. Their bowling has clicked almost in every game and their batting has contributed enough to take them through.
Their win against West Indies in the quarters shows how well they have gelled as a team this tournament after all the off field issues they had prior to the same. Gul and Afridi have been brilliant and the addition of Misbah and Younis in the middle order has given the solidity the team was lacking over the last few months. So the Pakistani team would be quietly confident regarding their chances in the Wednesday’s semi-final game. The batting will be under the scanner and they would know that their bowlers cannot have an off day.
The Indian team on the other hand has had a mixed tournament. Their bowling and fielding has struggled and the batting has been inconsistent during the course of the tournament. The bowlers have failed to defend 300 twice in this tournament and the batsmen have collapsed from great position twice. The Indian bowling has heavily relied on Zaheer Khan who has been brilliant in this world cup. He has been the second highest wicket taker in the world cup and along with Harbajan Singh has been India’s consistent performer. Ravichandran Ashwin’s inclusion though has given India a definite edge over the past couple of games.
The Indian top order has been in great form and Raina’s inclusion ahead of Yusuf has given the team the necessary depth in batting. India would take a lot of heart from their performance against the Australians where their bowling and fielding was top notch. The Indian fielders put on an incredible performance to restrict Australia to an achievable total. The bowling was also pretty consistent and it was probably their best performance on the field in the entire tournament. That shows that probably the Indian team is peaking at the right moment for an important tournament like this. The Indian batting too showed that they have the necessary depth and quality to chase down a difficult total on a tough wicket.
Sachin, Ghambir, Yuvi and Kohli all looked in excellent touch. Sehwag coming back from an injury did not look that comfortable against the Aussies but knowing him, he will be very much ready for a contest as big as this. Raina who was included at the last minute showed amazing maturity to play a great short innings under pressure to guide India to victory in the quarterfinals. The win against the Aussies for sure would have been a great confidence booster for Dhoni’s men. On paper though you would say that the Indian team should win 9 times out of 10 but strength or form counts for nothing in India-Pakistan encounters. It’s the performance on the day which matters.
Indian management’s decision to not allow the players to interact with the media is a masterstroke as this will keep them focused on the game. It’s unfortunate that the Indian government is trying to make this a political game by inviting the Pakistani prime minister. This puts a lot of pressure on the players in the middle. I don’t know when the politicians will realize that this is just a game of cricket and politics has no place in sports. The pressure on the players is enormous as it is and they would appreciate a little respite.
Just couple of days to go for the D-day and fans from both the countries would want their team to win this game. I don’t even think anybody is worried about the finals as of yet as this game is as good as the final for the people of both these countries. I just hope that this game lives up to its billing and produces a wonderful contest. C’mon India!!!