Here we go again. India take on Pakistan in the Champions Trophy and whatever the outcome, these clashes are never short of excitement. Going by reports from South Africa, a full house is on the cards. It is bound to be a good contest but on current form, India should go through.
The injury to Yuvraj Singh was most unfortunate but these things can happen to anyone. Yuvi’s absence will be a big blow, more so if we consider that the team has already lost Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan.
Yuvi has been prolific in the middle order, the manner in which he takes on the opposition bowlers and finishes games off being a rare ability. His bowling will also be missed. On these pitches at the Centurion, his left-arm spin would have been most handy. In any case, this team is good enough to carry on and do well.
The team will welcome the return of Gautam Gambhir. He will partner Sachin Tendulkar at the top and the left-right combine can be more than a handful for any opposition.
For his part, Sachin has been in tremendous form. It’s amazing that someone who has played nearly 20 years of top-flight cricket continues to play with the same passion.
His preparation before each game continues to be of the same intensity as ever and he’s always as busy in practice sessions as ever. Sachin cannot stand still at one place and if he’s not batting, he’s bowling, if doing neither, he’s knocking around elsewhere.
Yuvi’s absence will add that extra pressure on Sachin, Rahul Dravid and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. This is also an opportunity for Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan to step up. They may be joined in the middle order by either Dinesh Karthik or Virat Kohli and this is a chance for some of them to seize. I would also look at playing a second spinner in Amit Mishra. The Centurion pitch usually takes turn and Mishra is an option.
On Thursday, I saw Rudolf van der Merwe bowl and the first thing that struck me was that the fastish spinners, those who hit the deck should get some purchase from the strip. Which means that the tall Yusuf, who like Merwe, bowls a flattish trajectory, albeit from a great height, should do well.