I can't but get nostalgic as I look ahead to Wednesday's semifinal. My mind goes back to 2003, and Centurion, and the way we went about preparing against Pakistan.
At that time, the Pakistan attack was a potent one. There was Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, who was really
quick even then. They were highly skilled and made huge demands on the technique and character of the batsmen.
In the current scenario, India have an easier task. This pace attack is nowhere near close to 2003, in terms of experience and ability. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, in particular, will recall the brutal manner in which they destroyed the attack, and that will help instill positive thoughts.
The other aspect is the batting. Sachin and Sehwag have batted together for a long time, while the Pakistan opening pair is relatively new.
Given their experience and the success they have had together, Sachin and Sehwag could be the difference in this match. The rest of the batting order is in great form, and that adds to the confidence.
Right combo the key
This brings India's bowling into focus. The only two certainties are Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. India must assess the conditions well and choose their third and fourth bowlers carefully. They must decide if they need a third seamer, or if they will play just two seamers. If India make a wrong choice, they can easily throw away the advantage that their batting gives them.
The pressure will be a lot more than when you play Pakistan in a bilateral series. India and Pakistan seem to go through cycles; there are periods when they play each other a lot, then there are phases when they hardly play each other.
After a couple of years of quiet, they are facing each other in the World Cup, and that can dramatically increase the tempo. There have been plenty of off-field developments in the last couple of days, but I am sure the players are well insulated. As it is, they have plenty on their plate! The presence of the two Prime Ministers will enhance the enormity of the game and occasion.
It will be very hard for India to lose, though very little can be taken for granted in cricket.
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