R. Ashwin celebrates with his Mahendra Singh Dhoni after he dismissed Pakistan's Imran Nazir during the World T20 warm-up match between India and Pakistan in Colombo. AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi
Call it patriotism or passion, an India-Pakistan game evokes extreme reactions. The subcontinent will come to a halt on Sunday evening when the two nations go head-to-head in the ICC World Twenty20.
The equation, past results and current form don't count for much. It's all about the game at hand.
Embarrassed by Australia, India are down in the pits, but Dhoni & Co have the chance to wipe off the negativity at one go. That's the impact of a win over the arch-rivals. If you redeem yourself against the old enemy, past mistakes are excused and blunders are accepted.
However, the odds are heavily stacked against India in the much-awaited Super Eights game. Pakistan have never beaten India in either the 50-over World Cup or World T20, but Mohammad Hafeez's men will start as favourites.
The India captain is facing the heat ahead of the do-or-die battle and has too many issues to deal with in the 24-hour break. The least of all is to handle the shattered morale. The constant chopping and changing hasn't helped, it's only left the team unsettled.
Then, Dhoni has to deal with hurt egos. Virender Sehwag doesn't seem to have taken too kindly to the decision of dropping him, and such issues can affect the team spirit when action is not backed by logic. Going by his record against Pakistan, Sehwag merits his place in the XI. Till late night, he had been left guessing though. The final call was to be taken in the team's morning meeting. If he gets a chance, he will not be short of motivation but, sadly, it will be about proving a point to his captain and coach.
India are still searching for the right balance in batting and bowling. The Australian openers' blitz has confused the think-tank about the effectiveness of playing three spinners. In all probability, the team will be back to playing four bowlers with Piyush Chawla making way for Sehwag. The barrage of bouncers from Pat Cummins has shaken the confidence of quite a few batsmen and overcoming the cobwebs in the mind will be the key for the middle order.
Pakistan are an unpredictable outfit, but when on a roll, they can be difficult to stop. They will have their tails up after the miraculous win against South Africa. In the mind games also they will have the bragging rights after the victory in the warm-up game 12 days ago at the same venue.
Most impressive about the green brigade has been the knack they have shown of wriggling out of pressure situations. They showed it against India when they chased down 185 and performed the Houdini Act against South Africa.
The Men in Blue have been cracking under strain. There were enough signs of nerves against Afghanistan and they crashed when the Aussies turned on the heat on Friday. The Indians have their backs to the wall with virtually no time to regain composure and confidence. But then, as Jacques Kallis says, the challenge of this game lies in being able to change from game to game and over to over.