Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Team With Clear Advantage

Expect him to play a bit more freely, with "50 kilos" off his back now

It is said to be the mother of all clashes, the match of the matches and don't know what hyperbole is associated with this match that associated the two of the bitterest rivals, on and off the fields. Let's us admit, these are no exaggeration because suddenly when these two teams meet on a cricket field, everything changes, offices are closed, shops are shut down, streets and markets are vacated, and if you want to find any one at that particular time, your best bet would be that that person would be in front of his television set.

The tomorrow's match between India and Pakistan had been scheduled in October, last year and none was talking about the match aloud because of the dreaded result, except with one's self.

Pakistan entered into the tournament with a bit of less confidence, after their drubbing in the limited overs leg of the England's tour to UAE but they seem to have found their form in the nick of time. And again, it was the bowling that looked apart which had lost its zip and venom when in UAE. In fact, it was the bowling that defended a below par score against a confident Bangladesh side and bowled out an in-form Sri Lankan side for less than 200. Though they had to endure the usual hiccups in the batting, which has become a bit of a nauseous problem for Pakistan. In the match against Bangladesh, their top 7 was rock bottomed by some incisive bowling were less than 200 and if it wouldn't had been of Umar Gul's valuable 39, the match was well out of their reach. Similarly, chasing a paltry total of 188, Pakistan again found themselves in hot water at 33 for the loss of 3 wickets, when there was less pressure and an easier wicket to bat on. The form players like Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez puts that much pressure on the middle and lower-middle order.

As for India, they started the tournament on a very high note by scoring the highest total in the Asia Cup, of 305 with a loss of only 3 wickets, with century apiece to Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli and the final touches in the end by the captain MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. For moment in that chase by Sri Lanka, they looked in contention but as often it has been the case with them, they faltered badly to collapse from 196-3 to 254 all out. It looked promising for Dhoni as batsmen found form and bowling also backed up the batsmen efforts as they won by a comfortable margin of 50 runs. However, things were to change completely for India as they had to face an embarrassing defeat by the hands of the hosts on 16th March. The Indian bowlers found the going tough against the fearless Bengali batsmen as rank full-tosses and length deliveries were on offer and the batsmen duly accepted them by depositing them in the stands. The bowling woes sprung up again for the Indians as they enter into an all-important, must win match with their bowling being a constant headache. The failure to defend a par total of 289 by the world champions augurs well for Pakistan, but then Pakistan also doesn't exactly have a batting line-up to set the world on fire.

Therefore, we look at this match with both sides uncannily similar in their own ways. One section might view this match between poor Pakistani batsmen and hopeless Indian bowlers, and some might view it between in-form Pakistani bowling and excellent Indian batsmen. Although weaknesses and strengths hold their place, but in a match that involves these two, everything is shoved in the bin. It’s a match that springs surprises and out-of-form players find their forms against each other. Sachin Tendulkar's century leaves the top order of India in good stead, with Gambhir, Kohli and Raina all among runs. While Umar Gul's late burst against Bangladesh and economical returns against Sri Lanka also things that much easier for Misbah-ul-Haq, as Gul was found to be desperately out-of-form against England. While the pressure is on, the difference in this decisive match will be the bowling on tracks that are conducive for batting all throughout, with a bit favourable for spinners. The Pakistani bowling, on balance, just tips ahead in that respect, but can you seriously say anything when these two teams meet?

However players are meant to be professionals, aloof of such feelings and above any emotions. Probably it may be a tad harsh to say that for players, but they do feel the pressure of such a match. What is to be seen is which player rises to the occasion while his adrenaline rises and which looks for a corner, shying from the opportunity that could well make him a hero.

Players to look out for in India:
  •  Virat Kohli
  • Suresh Raina
  • Praveen Kumar
 Players to look out for in Pakistan:
  • Nasir Jamshed
  • Younis Khan
  • Saeed Ajmal
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