“Ayee nazreen ab hum aap ko Mohali liya chalte hain jahan se aap Pakistan bamuqabla BHARAT baraheraast mulahizaa farma sakein ge” :) Tell me that doesn’t jangle your nerves and sends the shivers down your spine. Let there be no mistake folks this is as IT as IT can get, well IT could be the world cup final instead of the semi but then 1/7th of the world’s population would just get wiped out due to one gynormous heart attack. Trust me it ain’t gonna get bigger and better than this.
One general sentiment that I have picked up on since yesterday browsing the Pakistani fan websites and ever changing facebook statuses is the fear that is creeping in since the knock out of the four time world champions, Australia. Nerves and tension is fine but fear is not fitting for as Salman Khan and Mountain Dew have so aptly put it “Dar se mat darro, dark ke age jeet hai :)” There is some thing very different about this Pakistani side and the world cup clashes of the past that we should take heart from and go into this match up as confident as ever.
Lets look at the past world cup clashes first where I am going to try and rationalize the world cup losses. Every one knows how Pakistan is a momentum team, more so than any other side in the world, and I don’t think any one can argue with that so lets just take that as fact
1992 We were in the biggest rut possible in the early part of the competition, having been thrashed by all state sides in Australia, losing to the W.I and getting bowled out for 74 against Eng. Needless to say we were pretty much down in the dumps when we faced India and got duly thrashed. Injuries to Ramiz Raja (one of our main batsman in that WC) and Ijaz Ahmed didn’t help our cause either. But who cares we went on to win the Cup.
1996 We were stripped of our captain in the key match due to an intercostal injury. Match fixing blah blah blah say what you may losing your captain who also happens to be none other than the greatest bowler of our time (suck it Waqar) will derail any world cup campaign. Take away Loyd from 75, Dev from 83, Border from 87, Khan from 92….you get the point… one can’t win with out the captain.
1999 Again we had found ourselves in a bit of a rut. Had just lost to Bangladesh (yea that’s right Bangladesh of the nineties, that was as bad as losing to Ireland) and had gotten our asses handed to us by the Zulu and Boucher so were still nursing our wounds when we came up against India. India who were going out of the tournament and would have probably gotten man-slaughtered on their arrival back home had they lost to us too played with vigor realizing this as their only saving grace. Pakistan meanwhile from the start of the super sixes had the luxury of a final match up with Zimbabwe and didn’t have much invested in the clash. Add to that Prasad who had a horrible knack for turning it on against Pakistan in World Cups and you had a match that didn’t even live up to a Pakistan-India WC billing.
2003 The only WC encounter that has some significance on this current clash. We were still way short of any sort of momentum having lost to Aus and Eng and a squad full of legends way past their prime, where as India fielded an exuberant young side that was playing a new brand of attacking cricket. Defensive captaincy, turmoil in the camp and never getting the campaign off to a jump start Pakistan were always going to be playing catch up in the encounter. They made a match of it and if it wasn’t for Abdul Razzaq’s horrible fielding (2:45) things could have been different. Still the lack of momentum was the main culprit in my mind.
This side of 2011 is not facing the same momentum issues. It has continually been labeled as the underdog in every big match it has played and has come up trumps. It also does not suffer from the unpredictability tag that has haunted their predecessors; at least in their minds they know they are not unpredictable. Take the Eng, S.A ODI series as examples, we lost both 3-2 but in both an extremely tough fight was given not expected of the side especially taking into account the scandals and intense scrutiny the team was being put through at the time. The team has become less and less reliant on individual brilliance and more and more inclined towards delivering as a unit. It is composed of players highly varying in ability and skill but each and every one has been given a defined role in the side and thank fully every one is performing that role (yes even Kamran Akmal has gotten rid of those bloody shades and pulled his socks up). In other words there is a lot of thought and planning that is going on in the Green’s dressing room these days. They seem to have plans for every opposition they have faced and credit has to be given to Waqar who has turned out to be an exceptionally mature and astute coach. No doubt his extensive experience when it comes to Pak-Ind encounters is definitely going to be a big plus for us compared to India’s Kirsten.
Let’s come to the match it self. It’s in Mohali a favourite hunting ground for us. We have never lost to India here and it has to be as close as a home encounter for Pakistan as it can get (come on all it needed was a sneeze from Radcliff at the opportune moment and the town would have ended up on the right side of the border :) ). The pitch tends to be a bit quicker and bouncier here which bodes well for both our batting and bowling. We are much stronger in the pace department and the return of Akhtar (have no doubt, he will play) will add more zing to the attack. Zaheer Khan India’s premier fast bowler won’t have much of an effect against Pakistan. Here’s why:
1) He is ok with the new ball, nothing special.
2) He is devastating with the old ball but Pakistani batsmen have a lot of practice facing reverse in domestic and in the nets.
3)The most important reason, we don’t have any left handers. Zaheer is much more lethal to left handers than right handers.
Our spin attack no matter what foolish Ponting has said is heads and shoulders above India’s which is where the conundrum lies for India. What kind of a pitch do they prepare, do they go for a spinning, low lying dry sort of track. We are no Australia, our batsmen have been brought up on such surfaces and seeing the strength of our spin and the fact that Harbhajan has almost always been taken to the cleaners by the Greens that would be unwise. Do they go for a bouncy more assistant to seamers wicket, but that gives Pakistan a clear advantage given the deadly form Umar Gul is in, not to forget Shoaib Akhtar (who playing in his last few matches will give it his absolute all and that alone should send the alarm bells ringing through the Indian camp. No matter how many times the Indians replay the six in 2003 in their heads the fact is Shoaib Akhtar does indeed get under Sachin’s skin and that is reason enough for him to play). Or do they go for an all out batsmen friendly track, where they take their batting advantage out of play and the equation just becomes India’s capabilities with the ball versus Pakistan with the bat. Our openers finally firing and all the other batsmen in decent knick I am not too worried about this scenario.
One should of course remember that Pakistan has over come two of the World Cup favorites with quite a bit of ease. True India has also beaten Australia but that match was any one’s game. Both Sri Lanka and Australia were made to play catch up from the get go and were never in the game playing against the Greens. The absolute trouncing that we handed out to the Windies, who in spite of having no Gayle, Roach or Chanderpaul gave India quite a tough time should leave no one in doubt about the form and momentum this Pakistani side is in. They are being lead by an effervescent leader who is at the top of his game and full of confidence and energy something that spreads like a parasite through the rest of the squad. Compare him to Dhoni’s current form and lack of otherwise typical tactical nuance and one must surely be looking at a major deciding factor of the match. Playing a home match of such high magnitude (probably the biggest match even Sachin has been a part of) under such intense pressure has got to leave some strain on the blues of India another factor that works to our advantage. The danger players that Pakistan have to watch out for are Sehwag (as usual he has been saving himself for us) and Ashwin. Make a good plan to tackle both of them and you have the game under control.
This is the first time Pakistan come into a World Cup clash with their arch rivals on the back of some solid performances and the magic of momentum. They are playing strategic yet aggressive cricket and all their departments are firing. Pakistani fans have every reason to be confident and geared up for this match and should see it as a golden opportunity to rid our selves of the monkey of not having beaten our friendly neighbors in a WC clash. And that too in grand style silencing their feeble retorts to having a better ODI and test record forever. I see us going on to Mumbai, it will be a cracker, but I see us prevailing. Otherwise….there ain’t another wise because Waqar and Misbah have some scores to settle :) GO GREEN! PAKISTAN CRICKET ZINDABAD!
p.s How could any Pakistan-India Cricket post be complete without THIS :)