Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shoaib Malik were scheduled to have a photo opportunity with the World Twenty20 trophy, on the eve of their final, at the Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg on Sunday. It was delayed. Dhoni was held by a late team flight from Durban. And later, Malik was busy attending a call from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, also the chief patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Dhoni, by the way, also got some important calls. BCCI president Sharad Pawar (who has left for Johannesburg to watch the final) called the Indian skipper after their emphatic 15-run win over Australia. Dhoni also received a call from Rahul Dravid, his predecessor, who congratulated the new skipper.
<b1>While both teams are rejoicing in their respective feats, they are under no illusions about how difficult this last hurdle is going to be. One, it's going to be a final, and two — it's going to be an India-Pakistan final. The stakes are upped dramatically.
Though both skippers have diplomatically stated that all they are hoping for is a "good game of cricket", a lot is at stake.
Both will be aware that lifting the trophy (even if a T20 one) will probably lay the spectres of their disastrous World Cup campaigns to rest, at least in the minds and hearts of their fans.
From an Indian perspective, Dhoni & Co's chances of a win will be greatly enhanced if they are able to successfully tackle Pakistan's tactics in the bowling department.
After losing to India in the bowl out, Pakistan opted to hand over the new ball to Sohail Tanvir and save Umar Gul for the death overs. And both have excelled in their new roles.
<b2>India, on the other hand, have decided that their strategy will be to set the target (whenever possible) and not lose early wickets, building a platform from which the others can take off. However, the fitness of Virender Sehwag remains a key factor. Sehwag, who suffered a groin injury against Australia on Saturday, will be assessed on the morning of the match.
The game's timing could be crucial. While both teams have hardly played in Johannesburg in the tournament so far, it will be interesting how they adapt to the start at 2 pm (5.30 pm IST), when the ball hardly moves around.
With two young skippers at the helm, both desperately wanting to prove that they are the men who will lead their countries into the future; a couple of incredibly flamboyant batting superstars apiece in Yuvraj Singh and Shahid Afridi and a bunch of young, aggressive bowlers who will definitely be at the batsmen's throats, and the history between the two countries, this game promises to have the stress levels soaring and the pulses racing. Don't miss it.