Only rain can douse flying fireworks at India-Pak clash
Yeah… no pressure at all, only 1.5 billion people waiting for you to win,” said Hardik Pandya the other day in his usual laconic manner. But that quite well summarises the traditional frenzy around any high voltage India-Pakistan clash, more so in the World Cup, even if emerging statesman Virat Kohli refuses to rise to the bait and add some of his own banter to the occasion.
With the match rated as big as Football World Cup Final with a 1.5 billion viewership count, it is quite unusual — and unfortunate — that all the mid-field contest, combination, chirping, strategizing and what not kind of exciting talk has taken a backseat to the more mundane and entirely unrequired chance of rain cutting short the proceedings today when a well sorted India high on self-belief, performance and wins, meet a relatively new, cornered and edgy Pakistan facing near ouster from the tournament.
Kohli says that a 50-over both sides match would be outstanding for combination and strategy, but flexibility would be required if the rain cuts it short, of which chances are high. As per the latest on the weather chart – which has been changing stance since morning — there is now a 53 per cent rain chance at 10 am and 11 am with a 51 per cent chance and an equal chance at 3 pm, for at least an hour. All through, there will be a cloud cover over the venue, with gentle wind. The match is slated to begin at 10.30 am local time.
How much of a truncated contest it will become remains to be discussed in emergent morning huddles in both the dressing rooms, but with the kind of conditions in the air, a three-man pace battery with the inclusion of Mohammed Sami is a distinct possibility. “Bumrah and Bhuvi are bowling well. It is important for them to stay in prime condition and the mental side of things will take care of itself, more so where conditions are like this, they’ll get a lot more help than the first two games,” skipper Virat Kohli said at his pre-match Press conference.
Statistics tell you, and the entire world quotes them with joy and concern depending on which side of the border the chirp is coming from, Pakistan is yet to record a victory against India in a World Cup. They broke this traditional ICC event barrier in the Champions Trophy Final which they won, but as their coach Mickey Arthur says, “that was a long time ago.”
More than anything in a game of this proportion, where emotions get overly stoked, especially in young dressing rooms on either side, the need is to draw from focus more than precedent, calm more than passion and self-belief over all else.
Kohli knows that Aamir is in top gear having torn through the Australians with his fifer and Wahab comes with his own brand of pace and risk. But he, like Arthur, has also seen that the three disciplines of batting, bowling and fielding are yet to come together for the green brigade. While Arthur is looking at creating havoc upfront to unsettle the famed Indian batting order, Kohli is confident that the shock of a seasoned Shikhar Dhawan being unavailable would be duly dealt with by KL Rahul who is in keen nick.
The regimen is the same as always: See through the first 10 overs, build up a score that the bowlers can defend and then wait for the excellence of the arm department to play through the opponents. On a brown top, there are brownie points for the likes of Rohit Sharma and Kohli himself who scored a scintillating ton the last time the two met in the World Cup at Adelaide. Neither has picked up niggle or rust in the contravening four years. Add to that the fast and furious Hardik Pandya, who fired away in the nets on match eve, and master finisher in M S Dhoni, and all one needs is a plan that works, a belief that propels it and conditions that give India the wings to fly to another two points.
Hype or not, in the end, it is just about two points, like from any other game, isn’t it? The tournament will go on and tomorrow will be yet another day for Kohli. For Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed though, a defeat would mean, well, Gone With The Wind, without the Scarlet O Hara kind of optimism in defeat and misery.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohmmed Shami, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Shahdab Khan, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Hasnain, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Aamir, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Asif Ali.
Sunday, 16 June 2019 | PNS | Old Trafford (Manchester)