DHAKA: India checked the firmness of the ground beneath them in the practice game against Sri Lanka and perhaps will continue to warm-up in that fashion against England as well, but come March 21, the team will have to start talking. The third Friday of March 2014 isn’t awaited for any Bollywood smash hit but a humdinger on the cricket field, where Pakistan will try to break a world cup hoodoo against bitter rivals India. On every occasion – count eight – across the ODI (five times) and Twenty20 (thrice) World Cups, India have come off the field with smiles and Pakistan with a shrug of the shoulders. That record must pinch Pakistan more when they are written about as the most successful team in World Twenty20 but not with a single win against India.
The Indians will try to not allow Pakistan blemish that record, but will be up against a better Twenty20 outfit. India’s T20 squad looks a lot beefy then the team that lost the Asia Cup encounter to Pakistan earlier this month. Adding muscle to team’s chances will be the arrival of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina – three willow-wielders that can bat any team into submission in limited-overs cricket.
Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez, though doesn’t agree and was quick to point, perhaps playing mind games, that one player’s absence or presence means nothing. “The absence of any one individual or his return to the side doesn’t make that much difference. Yes, MS Dhoni’s leadership and return is a key factor as he has done well but we won’t enter the game with the mindset that we won in the Asia Cup because he was not there,” Hafeez mentioned during his press conference in Dhaka. But led by the wily Saeed Ajmal and buoyed by the return of Umar Gul, Pakistan bowling can test the best and certainly has an edge – turning the contest once again into Indian batting vs Pakistani bowling.
While the teams may stick to their diplomatic replies of ‘taking it one match at a time’ and the blah, India vs Pakistan match-ups are much more than a sporting encounter – falling just short of baying for each other’s blood. But as the two teams reserve the harshest of hostilities for each other, they need to be aware that defending champions West Indies and a hungry Australia will also be breathing down their neck, making the group dangerous enough to boil down to net run rate deciding one or both of the semifinalists. For now, though, the wait is on just for the clock to strike 06:30 pm (PST) on Friday.
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