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India confident before Twenty20 final

The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams arrive in Johannesburg raring to go for Monday's title clash.

cricket Updated: Sep 24, 2007 03:00 IST

The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams arrived in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon raring to go for Monday's title clash at the Wanderers Stadium in the Twenty20 World Championships.

This is the first face-off between the two South Asian neighbours and arch rivals in a major final since the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Melbourne where India romped home by eight wickets.

That India have never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup augurs well for the side that has only beaten the neighbours in 40 of the 108 one-day internationals they have played. India have lost 64 games and four have ended without a result.

But this is Twenty20 cricket and, as has been witnessed in South Africa, only a brave man can pick a favourite. And when the teams are so evenly matched, as India and Pakistan no doubt are, the task becomes even more hazardous.

"It's the biggest stage and the biggest match you can play," said Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni soon after the semi-final win over Australia in Durban on Saturday. "It's a match that needs to be played with intensity, and I think we are ready to do that."

It is only the second meeting between the two sides in Twenty20 cricket and the Indians will enjoy the psychological advantage of having defeated Pakistan in the only bowl-out of the tournament in their Group D clash.

Both sides were tied at 141, but that was in Durban where India played five of their six matches in the tournament.

India's sixth game was at the Wanderers where they came a cropper against New Zealand, which were beaten by Pakistan in the other semi-final.

India's game against the Kiwis was a day game, while Pakistan have the experience of playing under lights, having easily defeated both Sri Lanka and Australia at the same venue.

Familiarity with the conditions would stand Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik in good stead when he walks out for the toss with Dhoni.

Located 1,753 metres above sea level, the Wanderers lures batsmen to go the aerial route since the ball travels farther because of the altitude. Both sides pack enough players to take advantage of the location, and it will finally come down to nerves as it so often does in an India-Pakistan clash.

"The pressure will be immense (but) I don't believe in taking pressure and none of my team does either," said Dhoni. "Taking the pressure on board will not help you perform. It will bring down your confidence."

Star Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh added: "India versus Pakistan is always a big game. It's a dream to get that match-up for a major final."

Pakistan, of course, will be looking for revenge after their humiliating 0-3 blow out in the Durban bowl out that had skipper Malik confessing he was not aware of the tie-break rules.

Pakistan bowlers missed the target altogether while the Indians hit stumps three times in a row to emerge victors.

"This is a final, and we are ready for anything," said Malik, when reminded of the Durban experience. "It's a new game and I hope lots of runs will be scored so that everyone can enjoy a big final between Pakistan and India."

Big hitter Shahid Afridi, who proudly announces on television each time he goes out to bat that his favourite shot is "anywhere for six", will try and match the sixer-king Yuvraj, making it a mouth watering prospect for the spectators, albeit a dangerous one too with the ball flying into the stands ever so often.

The Pakistan pace attack looks sharper with Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir, all capable of causing early damage, backed by the spinning prowess of Afridi and Fawad Alam.

But Indian new-ball bowlers Rudra Pratap Singh, Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth and Joginder Sharma have all performed well, even if it was only in patches, and with Harbhajan Singh leading the spin attack with plenty of part time options in Yuvraj and Virender Sehwag available, skipper Dhoni must demand that his players hold their catches and appear sharper on the field.

Irrespective of the final outcome, cricket's latest slam-bang version has been a huge success and with teams from the sub-continent figuring in the final, Twenty20 is certainly here to stay.

The only thing that remains to be decided is if the beautiful trophy, crafted by a Jaipur jeweller, comes home or travels across the border.