A Preview and A Peek into the Rivalry’s History
INDIA vs. PAKISTAN! Semifinal at Mohali! A hundredth International Hundred beckons the Genius, Sachin Tendulkar. It does not get better than this. The dream encounter. During the post match show, after India vs. Australia Quarterfinal, Tony Greig will use one word to describe THE encounter of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Vendetta! Harsha Bhogle strongly opposed the use of this word. However, as Navjot Singh Sidhu said, India vs. Pakistan is not just another cricket match. It is much more than that. The India-Pakistan rivalry is all about an electrifying atmosphere, emotions running high, darn good cricket and some nerve-wracking moments. This is what is expected to happen at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium (PCA), Mohali on March 30, Wednesday.
My last post, India’s World Cup So Far, touched upon some of the issues Team India faced during their group stage games. Fielding and our bowling had been a concern. Ashwin’s presence adds a lot of quality to our attack. Zaheer has been the best bowler for India so far. With Yuvraj Singh bowling well and Harbhajan Singh commanding respect from his opponents, if one more bowler can make an impact, I believe we have a potent attack that can take 10 wickets against any opposition. Munaf Patel was completely ineffective against Australia.
The fielding has definitely improved. The Indian fielders saved at least 20-30 runs in the field against Australia. Running between the wickets was also good. Except of course for some crazy moments like Gambhir’s run out. Dhoni has to find some form. The Pakistan captain has been exceptional as a leader and with the ball. He has led from the front. It’s about time MS Dhoni played what is popularly called The Captain’s Innings. Maybe he needs to watch the video of his 148. The highest score by an Indian batsman against Pakistan.
Coming back to the match. This is a dream come true for the fans. India-Pakistan matches always cause a lot of tension. So much tension, that you can cut it with a knife. A look at the history. India and Pakistan have met four times in world cups before. First. 1992, Sydney Cricket Ground. India won it by 43 runs. Pakistan were bowled out for 173 chasing 217. The match remembered because Javed Miandad mimicked the antics of Kiran More, irked by his constant appealing and jeering.
Second, 1996. M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. Winning the toss India will score 287 largely dude to Sidhu’s 93 and Jadeja’s quick 45. During the chase, Aamer Sohail will try to upset V. Prasad by pointing a finger at the place where he had struck his last boundary as if saying, “I will hit you for more right there”. Prasad got his revenge the very next ball when he uprooted Sohail’s off-stump. Pakistan were dismissed for 248.
Third, 1999. Old Trafford, Manchester. This is perhaps the ugliest of their encounters. The Kargil war was raging back home. Pakistan were bowled out for 180 chasing a target of 228. V Prasad taking a 5-wicket haul. During the course of the match there were three arrests, nine ejections and a burnt Indian flag.
Fourth, 2003. SuperSport Park, Centurion. Saeed Anwar will score an amazing hundred making sure Pakistan reached 273. This would have given them some hope. Unfortunately, the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, had other ideas, scoring a breathtaking 75-ball 98. Then, Rahul Dravid’s 44 and Yuvraj Singh’s 50 will make sure that India made it 4-0 against Pakistan.
This time around, the Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi is confident of a turn-around. Amidst the injuries to key players, the spot fixing allegations and all the other turmoil in their cricketing world, Pakistan have come out all guns blazing. Pakistan actually have a good record at the PCA stadium, Mohali. The PCA stadium is known for its bounce and the assistance to fast bowlers. Both teams have a brilliant front line bowler in Umar Gul and Zaheer Khan. Both teams have good spinners. Afridi & Ajmal and Ashwin & Harbhajan.
The difference will come in the field and in the batting. How well their batting line up performs under pressure and in the conditions at Mohali is the key. Though Pakistan has a good batting unit. Can they handle the pressure? The famed Indian batting line up is capable of both. The crowd will be divided as well because lot of Pakistani supporters will come over. Come Wednesday, every cricket fan will be glued to their television sets hoping to see a cracker of a game. India will be looking to Yuvraj Singh (See Right), Sachin Tendulkar, R Ashwin and Zaheer Khan to make an impact with the others chipping in.
India vs. Pakistan, Semifinal of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 at Mohali. Both teams evenly matched in their strengths and weaknesses. The way Pakistan succumbed to a defeat under pressure to New Zealand and the way India held their nerve in their epic win against Australia may be difference between the two sides. This world cup has had everything but an India-Pakistan encounter. On Wednesday, that will happen as well. Any fan of good cricket will hope for a classic India-Pakistan encounter like always. May the best team win.
However, we as supporters of India will always chant, Chak De! India. Go India Go! Just two more games away from The Cup that Counts!
Previous Post on Cricket World Cup, India’s journey in the Group Stages :
You can also read my three part preview on the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011,
1. The Stage is Set – Cricket World Cup 2011
2. The Key Contenders – My Semi Finalists
3. The Other Contenders: Can they Spring a Surprise?