The initial few matches notwithstanding this ICC Cricket World Cup has been just the kind of stuff dreams are made of. India’s unexpectedly early first round exit during the previous World Cup had ensured a great loss of revenue for the organizers but this time around India’s performance has guaranteed that everything goes according to plans. India defeating the once invincible Australians was a gear-changer and now the India-Pakistan clash of the 2011 World Cup promises to be the biggest showdown in recent times.
An India-Pakistan cricket match witnesses a gamut of emotions from just about everyone in the two countries and with the fact that the two are meeting after almost four years is bound to add more fuel to the passion. If India made it to the semi finals by ousting Australia, Pakistan too has made it to the semi finals on the strength of playing like a well-oiled cohesive force. One of the most unpredictable outfits in the cricketing world, Pakistan can be invincible if it chooses to be. Similarly the pool of sheer talent in the India quarter isn’t something that can be overpowered.
The player who holds the key to the outcome of the match is Yuvraj Singh. With four Man of the Matches awards under his belt, Yuvraj’s all-round performance has seen India through some really sticky situations. Barring a single match where he didn’t really set the field on fire with his batting, Yuvraj’s bowling has also come good at the right time.
India might have sprung a surprise in the form of R Ashwin in the last two games but Pakistan, like India, are naturally inclined to tackle spin better and with the Indian bowling lacking the punch besides the exception of Zaheer Khan, the batting like always will become the mainstay for India. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and either Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan are enough to put up or chase any total but they would have to survive an inspired Umar Gul. Shahid Afridi might be the highest wicket taker in this World Cup but its Pakistan’s formidable pace battery that would be more dangerous than Afridi’s slower ones.
Like all India-Pakistan matches this one too has seen its share of conspiracy theories. Some believe that come Wednesday night and India will maintain its victory streak against Pakistan in international tournaments. Since 1992 India has never lost a match to Pakistan in the World Cup. There are rumors that political scenario in Maharashtra will not be conducive for Pakistan to square off in the finals. In the past political parties like the Shiv Sena have not allowed Pakistan to play in Mumbai; so if Pakistan were to play the final it would mean that they would have to beat India in Mohali and if that were to happen who knows what kind of atmosphere would greet the eleven members of the Pakistan team at DY Patil stadium during the finals.
Another strange thing that happened in the run up to the semi final clash is the bizarre warning issued by the Pakistan’s Interior Minister. Is there more to Rahman Malik’s peculiar moral boosting endeavor in the form of a warning against match fixing on the eve of the big match? Why would an official say such a thing? Could it be a face saver for the result?
No matter how hard we try to call the Wednesday clash as just another match the truth is that it simply isn’t. There is much pressure on both the teams to beat the other and the players would be better off without the extra pressure from just about every side. But it’s impossible to imagine an Indo-Pak cricket match without the tamasha it tends to build up. With heads of states and the who’s who of both countries queuing up for the match, Mohali on 30th March, 2011 would be one hell of a match and like experts believe in the end it’d be about the team that doesn’t crack under pressure.