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Victory against Pak will be sweet but it isn't the only prize

india Updated: Mar 30, 2011 00:59 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times
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There can't be anything more lip smacking and adrenaline pumping than India-Pakistan match in the World Cup. It just doesn't get bigger than this! Even as history and statistics back India, Pakistan aren't looking worried or under pressure.

As both sides prepare for what is being touted as 'the final before the final', here's what must be keeping the Indian think-tank busy.

Pitch conundrum
It's not going to be easy to decide on what kind of wicket should be rolled out for the India-Pakistan clash. If it's spin-friendly wicket, Pakistan have better spinners to exploit it. If one goes for seamer-friendly wicket, considering that Pakistan batsmen are ill at ease on quick and bouncy tracks, the problem is India don't have bowlers other than Zaheer Khan to make use of it. On the contrary, Pakistan have enough firepower in Gul, Akhtar, Riaz and Razzak to get the best out of it.

Go flat out
The solution to pitch dilemma lies in Pakistan's batting rather than in their bowling. Compared to India's daunting batting line-up, the visitor's batting lacks both talent and depth. Their opening combo could easily be the poorest in the World Cup, the middle looks decent but no one has got a hundred, and the lower order, too, is yet to fire. So, India's best chance lies on a flat batting surface, which will nullify the bowling advantage of Pakistan.

Keep options open
'If it isn't broken, don't fix it' or 'Never change the winning combination' are the most redundant phrases in sports today. Experience, at times, could be one's worst enemy, for it keeps one rooted in the past and doesn't allow to change and innovate. Sport doesn't follow pattern. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Hence, it's wise to keep options open and decisions fluid.

Right combination
India must make at least one change. Munaf must make way for Nehra or Sreesanth so that Dhoni could attack Pakistan's brittle top order. Using Ashwin at the start against the Aussies was a brilliant move against Australia, but may not work against Pakistan. There might be temptation to play three seamers, but it's wise to go in with your best four bowlers, unless wicket is heavily suited to specific skill set. Our best combination could be Zaheer, Ashish, Ashwin and Bhajji.

Using pressure
Sachin couldn't sleep well for a fortnight before the game against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup. Gambhir doesn't get sound sleep every time India play Pakistan. It's that sort of pressure this particular contest brings about. But it's important to keep things in perspective. If India want to win the World Cup and become the top side in world cricket, they need to look beyond Pakistan. Yes, beating Pakistan is sweet, but that should not be be-all-and-end-all of the story.