There is something unique and inexplicable to India-Pakistan cricket rivalry. It invariably brings out the best from both sides. Just as when one feels a side may not match up to the other, the latter, almost habitually, raises the bar to make people change their minds. That’s exactly what Pakistan did in Mohali. The visitors looked a lesser side in Guwahati, but they lost little time in proving that it was a mistake to judge their worth on the basis of the first ODI.
<b1>Against this backdrop, the Kanpur match should be wide open, without any favourites. The teams would reassess the strengths of the other and plan accordingly. India would take the field with a little more respect for Pakistan’s batting after the Mohali stunner. It was this side, which chased down 321, that was being dubbed as being without enough firepower, with the sole exception of Shahid Afridi! The notion isn’t altogether wrong, especially when juxtaposed with the power-packed Indian batting line-up, but they proved that scoring big runs isn’t all about brutal hitting.
The Indian bowlers, too, would have given Mahendra Singh Dhoni some food for thought. There must be something wrong with the attack if the opposition chases down a total as big as 321. The seamers looked fine as long as the Pakistan batsmen batted within themselves, but once they turned the heat on, the bowlers looked clueless.
The news for the pace bowlers is that the wicket here wouldn’t be as conducive for stroke making as it was in Mohali, which retained its pace and bounce right through. Although the pacers profited from it, the batsmen, made better use of the conditions.
The wicket in Kanpur has traditionally been on the lower and slower side, resulting in low scoring matches. Admitting that bounce has been a problem, curator Shiv Kumar said he was, however, expecting slightly better bounce this time, good enough to see the match throwing up a total in excess of the highest-ever total 259 on this ground.
The nature of the track thus makes spinners’ role crucial and Dhoni would be more than happy to unleash his spin twins Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik. In all probability, Virender Sehwag would make way for Murali Kartik.
Sharad Deep adds:
Indian manager Lalchand Rajput did not seem upset at the teams not getting adequate practice opportunities.
“Because of Diwali, no ground staff was available today so we could not have proper training sessions like the series opener at Guwahati, but I feel the boys are used to this since they are playing at the top level,” Rajput told reporters.
“Though we didn’t have a look at the pitch today, we would be going to the ground early on Sunday to decide the playing eleven,” said Rajput, adding, “If we find the track to be a slower one, a regular bowler (spinner) would certainly be in the playing eleven.”
Rajput hailed Pakistan's strategy in Mohali, but claimed India were ready with plans to counter the rivals.