A defiant India will take on an upbeat Pakistan on Christmas night on Tuesday in a high-octane T20 tie at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore amid unprecedented security.
Putting aside the terror attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, the arch rivals have resumed the bilateral series after a gap of five years to promote peace and amity by playing two T20s and three one-day internationals (ODIs) in five cities across the country over the next two weeks (December 25 to January 6).
The Pakistan team, however, visited India in March 30, 2011, to play in the semi-final ODI match of the last ICC World Cup at Mohali but lost to the hosts by 29 runs.
Squeezed between the four-Test and five-ODI series against England on home turf, India has its task cut out to rein in a resurgent Pakistan, which came to Bangalore on late Saturday with a formidable pace-cum-spin bowlers and aggressive batters.
With the advantage of playing in front of over 30,000 frenzied fans, India will go all out to make up for the six-wicket loss to England in the second T20 tie in Mumbai on December 22 after winning the first T20 by five wickets in Pune December 20.
The dramatic retirement of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar from ODIs on Sunday will not make a difference as he remained out of the official T20 series despite playing in the IPL T20 game for Mumbai Indians.
The home team, however, is betting on T20 specialists Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma to blunt the Pakistani attack and help their spinners Ravichandran Aswin and Ravindra Jadeja and young pacers Ashok Dinda or Parvindar Awana to restrict the rivals while chasing or setting target.
After the historic ICC ODI World Cup win against Sri Lanka April 2, 2011, in Mumbai, India's performance in the shorter (T20s and ODIs) or longer version (Tests) of the game has been on the wane as evident from its failure to win any major international tournaments since then.
In contrast, the Pakistani team has geared up to give a tough time to the Indian team despite having a couple of youngsters in bowling and batting domains as the experienced Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohil Tanvir and Umar Gul are capable of taking away the match single-handedly or collectively.
Even before the countdown on the D-day, captains of both the teams (MS Dhoni and Mohammed Hafeez) started the mind games by asserting on Monday that the match will be hard fought and competitive while on the flip side there will be a lot of fun and spirit of camaraderie to enjoy the game irrespective of winning or losing by either.
The squads are:
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla and Ambati Rayudu.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Umar Gul and Zulfiqar Babar.