Strained relationship between India and Pakistan does affect the players and spectators. The pressure is immense as followers on both sides of the border except nothing but victory. Saturday will be no different.
Pakistan started their campaign against a depleted West Indies side a couple of days back. The batting did not inspire much confidence, with the top order, falling apart against an ordinary West Indies attack.
It’s early summer in South Africa and the ball moves pretty sharply.
Openers Kamran Akmal and Imran Nazir struggled against the West Indian quickies and a better team would not have allowed Pakistan to come back after the early reversals. Under such circumstances, Younis Khan’s absence had a telling impact on Pakistan’s performance.
When conditions assist bowling, particularly pacers, you need sound technique. And Younis is one batsman who can tackle quality pace on such surfaces. In his absence, it was a relief to see Umar Akmal, known for his strokeplay, playing a conservative knock.
The good news is that Pakistan have the pace attack to exploit such conditions. I’m looking forward to seeing Mohammed Asif bowl. He was such a bright prospect when the drugs scandal put the brakes on his career. It will be interesting to see whether he still has the same pace and control. If he does, he will be a formidable partner to Umar Gul and Mohammed Aamir. And with Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, they possibly have one of the most versatile attacks in world cricket at the moment.
Injuries have affected India as well with Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh not in the side. The former has a very good record against Pakistan and they should be pleased that they wont have to bowl to Sehwag.
India have wisely reinstated Rahul Dravid in the side, because experienced players do have a crucial role in these conditions.
The T20 format requires a batsman to play at the same pace from start to finish, but a batsman has to plan and manage his innings in a 50-over game, and this is where the technique and temperament of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid comes into play.
In fact, I would consider opening with the two so that they can see off the new ball; this would also ensure Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni play their natural game. As far as bowling is concerned, I’m eager to see how Ishant Sharma has developed.