An India-Pakistan encounter is a complete epic in itself. It transcends winning and losing, the context of the tournament and the ultimate prize of being crowned champions. After all, what is the point of winning a title if your archrival hasn’t been brought to its knees?
Saturday’s game is special for many reasons — the few encounters between the two sides in recent times, the high feeling of injustice in Pakistan over the IPL exclusion and the turmoil which has gripped cricket in the two countries. With that backdrop, every run scored, every wicket taken or mistake made will be etched in the fans’ minds.
Straightaway, it looks a match-up between the fast bowlers of Pakistan and the batsmen of India. It has been the central theme of encounters between the two and it won’t be any different. Pakistan have talent and experience to negate the ‘dead’ Dambulla pitch, while India have been bolstered by the confidence with which their batsmen chased down the Bangladesh total.
The future of Sub continental cricket will be on show. Mohammed Aamer against the young Indian middle-order will be a story in itself, and the resumption of hostilities between Virender Sehwag and Shoaib Akhtar will also be fascinating. After a very long time, Pakistan could have an edge in the spinning department, with the in-form duo of Shahid Afridi and Saed Ajmal.
A good start is the launchpad every side needs, and it will be up to Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag to ensure that Pakistan aren’t able to sink their teeth into the Indian line-up early. They have a task to ensure that the talented, yet young middle order isn’t exposed to the special tension of an Indo-Pak encounter. Fielding can and will make a difference.
It is almost certain that Pakistan will look to test Indian batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. The pitch is a bit two paced but isn’t quick. That could be helpful for Indian batsmen who will be up against a truly world class attack. The Indian pace attack too looked handy, though it must be said that the early overs against Bangladesh weren’t encouraging. They need to put up a vastly superior show. The early overs, for both sides, could be key on Saturday.