Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shahid Afridi are different personalities. They have similarities too, like coming from remote areas of their countries, rattling up strike rates in excess of 100 when on song and leading their teams to the semifinal of the World Cup.
This is where the
dissimilarities begin. Dhoni has a calm demeanour, is politically correct while speaking and not known to ruffle feathers with fiery statements. With his restless movements, spiked hair and aggressive talking, Afridi is an anti-thesis.
Come Wednesday, the two men will have the responsibility of fulfilling a dream that has become the opium of masses on either side of the border. India versus Pakistan for the first time this late in a 50-over World Cup, amid efforts to use the match to ease tensions between the two nations, Dhoni and Afridi have never had such an occasion to contend with.
As expected, they were approaching the task differently. Dhoni said it was a huge moment before adding that something bigger might confront him in future. "Maybe, this is my biggest game as captain, but maybe three years down something else will pose a sterner challenge."
Afridi had no qualms in admitting that this was bigger than ever. "It goes without saying. At the same time, I would like to accept this challenge with an open heart and expect my teammates to do their best. Coming into the tournament, we were not the favourites and have played above expectations so far."
The maverick skipper has been a key figure in Pakistan's progress. His unconventional leg-spin has put him on top of the list of wicket-takers with 21 scalps, and the Mohali pitch, known to offer carry, can make him a tricky customer. The same can't be said about his batting as he has made just 65 runs in six innings.
"Sometimes I do well (in batting) and sometimes I don't," Afridi was brutally candid when asked about his lean run with the bat, adding that he was paying extra attention to his bowling. "And I've always considered myself to be a bowling all-rounder."
Dhoni is also in the middle of a bad patch with the bat. He set India on course for the World Cup with a century in the practice match against New Zealand in Chennai, but has misfired in every outing since. He faced questions on this on Tuesday and like Afridi, was honest in his assessment.
"I haven't had too many chances to bat and sometimes it's difficult to get going if you are batting deeper down the order. I had a chance to do well against Australia in the last game. But I'm in good form."
A defining moment is on the way in this tale of two captains.