India take on Pakistan in their own backyard as a place in the finals is up for grab. India beat Australia at Ahmadabad by five wickets to book their ticket for the semi-final clash against arch rivals Pakistan at Mohali on March 30. The match would be a spectacle, given the past history between the two teams. Also the fact is that the match itself will be played in India, spicing things up. Both countries have fanatic cricket followers who would want their team to come out victorious from this epic battle.
In the Kashmir Valley things are no different. Cricket World Cup fever has gripped the people from all walks of life. Everyone is excited about the prospects of ‘The Game’ of the World cup so far. People can be seen talking match tactics and team compositions as everybody has turned expert ahead of the game. Young blood of the valley are using Facebook and Twitter for such discussion. Elder folks are discussing it at bakery shops and in late evening meetings under the street lamp posts. It seems as if everyone has gone haywire.
Pakistan has never managed a win against India in a Cricket World Cup match before. But hey, Spain never had won a world cup before, Australia never had gone down two matches in a row and we sure hadn’t seen a Kung Fu kick in the World cup finals before. So a Pakistan victory should not be counted out as off yet.
Shahid Afridi’s men have been playing good cricket in this World cup; losing just once in seven matches they have played so far. Their bowling attack is arguably the best that we have seen in this World cup. Umar Gul has been doing the business both with new and old ball. The Peshawar express is having an exceptional world cup demolishing batting line ups with his lethal reverse-swinging Yorkers. Afridi himself is also time of his life with the ball taking 21 wickets so far in the tournament to head the top wicket takers chart.
India on the other hand has the best batting line up with the likes of Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Gambhir in top form. Sachin Tendulkar is the highest run taker in the tournament with 379 runs so far. The master blaster is in superb form as he scored two centuries to inch closer to that personal milestone of hundred centuries. India’s bowlers aren’t doing too badly either, with Zaheer Khan leading the pack. Zaheer has already notched up 17 wickets and looks deadly dangerous with the ball in hand.
Apart from the form of the two teams the other thing which would be crucial is the pitch. The pitch at Mohali has a history of favouring the faster bowler, but it might not be the case this time around as most of the pitches in this World cup have been slow turning tracks. Both teams have good quality spinners in their ranks who either way can decide the match result.
There will be a lot of pressure on both the teams and it will be interesting to see how the two sub-continental giants will cope with it. The match will attract huge audience which is nothing new to Indo-Pak matches. But it will have more to it as both teams will not want to miss on the opportunity to feature in a yet another final of a World cup.
Adnan Majeed contributes to a sports fan website Sportingo.