Millions of fans across the globe couldn’t have asked for a better start to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 than a mouth-watering India vs Pakistan clash. It is like a final before the final, not only for fans but also for both teams. The ICC has perfectly slotted this iconic game at the start of the tournament which will ease out pressure on both teams and help them focus on their ultimate goal — winning the World Cup. India carry the pressure of keeping their unscathed record of not losing against Pakistan in five previous ICC Cricket World Cup games.
Misbah-ul-Haq has a pressure of changing history with a Pakistan team, which I believe, is not as strong on paper as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men. But the preparations are not ideal for both teams. Despite spending some quality time on bouncy wickets in Australia, India has so far struggled to cope with the conditions.
Their bowlers are still searching for the right line and their strong batting lineup has rarely got going. The picture is not rosy for Misbah either. It was no surprise to me when Pakistan lost a short two-match one-day series against New Zealand 2-0 and went on to concede 370 runs in the second ODI. It’s never easy for the subcontinent teams to adjust to the conditions in Australia and New Zealand.
Players from India and Pakistan grow up playing on slow and dead pitches in their own backyards and, barring few exceptional players, most of them have struggled whenever they play on more lively wickets abroad. The use of two cricket balls from both ends in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will also make things difficult for the Asian teams. Our bowlers love to bowl with old balls and get the reverse swing while it’s easier for spinners to grip the ball once it gets old after 20 overs. I’m afraid in this World Cup, there will be hardly any reverse swing and the spinners will find it tough to get the required amount of turn as the ball will not be older than 25 overs!
I am not a big fan of statistics. To me what matters is how you perform on the match day, no matter how much you are senior or a junior in the team. But there’s one ‘cruel’ stats which even makes me think twice and ie How much important the toss is in big matches?
I believe batting first is always an advantage as batsmen tend to get under pressure while chasing in big games. India has won four of the five toss against us in ICC Cricket World Cups games and our batsmen stumbled in all four run-chases. The only toss they lost was at Centurion in 2003 but Sachin Tendulkar played one of the best innings I have seen from the master, which allowed India to chase down a 274-run target.
But having said that, I think we had our chances in Sydney (1992), Bangalore (1996), Manchester (1999) and even at Mohali (2011). I can’t find a suitable word to describe what goes wrong when we chase against India, but it’s more like a mental blockage of players on which I’m sure Pakistan team management will be working on. If one closely looks at our previous five ICC Cricket World Cup encounters against India, we didn’t give up easily and it were all well contested matches. In most of these games our bowlers had done well, but it was the batting which gave us headache.
In Sydney we couldn’t chase 217 runs; in Bangalore we squandered an electrifying start by Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar in pursuit of 288 runs; in Manchester again our batsmen faltered despite restricting India at 227/6 and at Centurion when our batsmen racked up 273/7, the all star-studded pace battery of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar were shot down by Tendulkar’s brilliance. This time around, Pakistan doesn’t have that class in its bowling lineup. I believe the selectors have picked up too many youngsters for such a big event and we are definitely short of experience.
You go in big tournaments with one or two surprise packages. Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah have unfortunately no experience of big tournaments and it’s like carrying too much excess baggage. The tall Mohammad Irfan is the only one bowler who I could see troubling the strong Indian batting lineup, which is looking shaky in Australian conditions.
Of course injuries to Umar Gul, Mohammad Hafeez and Junaid Khan, and the unavailability of Saeed Ajmal has depleted the Pakistan bowling resources, but I still believe if Irfan and Afridi deliver the early punches, Pakistan has a chance to trouble the likes of Kohli, Raina, Sharma and Dhoni. Many might not agree with me, but in all previous five World Cup matches, we were rated as favorites and we ended up on the losing side.
This time around we are for sure not the favorites. This might help us to change the result. Who knows? This Super Sunday we all would know about it.
Forget what the mind is saying, forget what the heart is suggesting, just remember in Pakistan vs India matches players do play with different sets of mind. Whosoever copes well under pressure, he will come out winner. And of course my only suggestion will be win the toss and bat first. Good luck to both teams.
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