It's a dream semifinal, India against Pakistan in the World Cup, but people must not lose sight of the fact that it is only a semifinal. The general perception among Indian fans that beating Pakistan is the be-all and end-all must change. When players keep hearing all the time that beating Pakistan is bigger than winning the cup, it is impossible it will not act on the minds of some of them.
We have to move out of that line of thinking. As a nation, we have evolved and I don't think there can be any compromise on winning the final. This team is mature enough to realise that beating Pakistan is not everything, and certainly not more important than lifting the crown.
It will be interesting to see if Pakistan go with Shoaib Akhtar in this game. He can still bowl really quick and will be keen to make an impact in his last international competition. It's a do-or-die game, and his experience and considerable pace will make a difference. That's, of course, one way of looking at it. The other is not to change the winning combination, and stick with the team that defeated Australia as well as comprehensively outclassed the West Indies in the quarterfinal. Afridi has a tricky choice to make.
From an Indian perspective, the team is in a great situation. As a batsman, there is a feeling of incompleteness when you are chasing, and you are not there till the end when the match has been won. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli and Dhoni will all feel they left the business unfinished against Australia when they were dismissed before the target was reached.
I still feel the best of Sachin and the best of Sehwag are yet to come. Both of them, and the others in the top-order, are very hungry to perform, and these are often the trigger points going into a massive game. Even if two of these five make it big, India will have a great batting day. India are in safe hands with respect to batting, but there is a little more pressure on the bowling.
Especially against Pakistan, who have such good players of spin, I would advocate bringing back Munaf with the new ball and, if need be, include Ashish Nehra for Ashwin.
It might be harsh on Ashwin, who has done nothing wrong, but that's the nature of the game.
India have a golden opportunity to win their first World Cup since 1983. If we don't win now, I think we have a long wait ahead of us.
Four years from now, Sachin won't be around, and I am not sure if Zaheer and some of the others will still be playing. Also, we will be playing in Australia and New Zealand, where the conditions will be different. I am sure the team has that in mind.