Huh!! this is it.. The time has come when the men will be separated from the boys. The semi finals of the world cup are here and this is where the consistency and the composure will be tested. To the delight of the millions of fans in the sub-continent, all the sub-continental teams apart from Bangladesh have made it to the semi finals of this edition and this has happened for the first time in the history of world cup cricket. Just like the quarter finals were, semi finals too have all the makings of the pulsating contests and a certain game is indicating just that.
As they say, an India vs Pakistan game, especially at a World cup, is not just a cricket match, its more than that, its a war. A war which neither players nor the supporters of both the nations like to lose. Its said that its the “Mother of all the battles” and this time around it could really turn out to be the one.
Frankly speaking, this has been a below standard campaign for the Indian team. They have not played up to their potential in probably any of the games so far. Many will say that the performance against Australia in the quarter final was a complete one, but we should not forget that this team has still got a lot of scope for improvement. The spinners have not performed well so far, especially Harbhajan Singh. This world cup was supposed to be all about Indian spinners bundling oppositions for fewer totals. But India’s spin attack has let them down so far. In fact its the part timer Yuvraj Singh who is carrying the burden of spin bowling on his shoulders. There were not many expectations from the pace battery but Zaheer Khan has been a standout performer. He has matured so immensely over the past few years that at this moment for me he is easily amongst the top three bowlers in the world.But the second seamer is a seriously weak link.They have tried Munaf Patel,Ashish Nehra and S Sreesanth for that role but still it continues be a worry. Against Pakistan they should prefer Sreesanth ahead of the other two.He is aggressive,wicket-taker and most importantly a better fielder than Munaf and Nehra. Also he can get under the skins of the young Pakistani batting line up on such a big occasion. Batting has never been a problem for team India with the whole host of superstars boasting that batting line up.Its really amazing to see how Sachin Tendulkar is still going so strong even at this age, may be its the desire to win the world cup is keeping him on his toes and no wonder he is one of the leading run scorers in the tournament so far. Yuvraj Singh has been instrumental in India’s success so far. He has been terrific with both bat and ball. But still this batting line up too has shown some worries. The poor performances in the batting powerplay are a major area of concern. A good batting powerplay can make a team easily add 20-30 extra runs to the total, which will be extremely crucial at this stage. Also the form of skipper M S Dhoni is below par. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli have not been consistent. But despite all the problems, Indian team have reached the semi finals and it speaks the volumes for the ability and determination of this team. Its the hallmark of all the great teams that they manage to win even without ace performances. I firmly believe that this team is yet to peak and this team reminds me so much of Spain’s 2010 football world cup campaign when they never really played up to their potential in that tournament but still emerged as champions.
It is said that, in Pakistan talent emerges from anywhere like a grass. A month before the start of the world cup, three of their main players were banned. The team did not know that who ll captain them at the world cup, even when there were only ten days left for the beginning of the world cup. But still they somehow managed to put together a team under the leadership of charismatic Shahid Afridi and as they have done numerous times before they rose from the ashes like a phoenix bird. Pakistan have always been a “Jekyll and Hyde” kind of outfit and this campaign has been no exception to that fact. They triumphed over Australia and Sri Lanka but totally capitulated to New Zealand.Amidst all of this, some players have been standout performers for them. Captain Shahid Afridi has taken the most wickets in the tournament. His fast leg breaks and googlies have proven too much for even some of the better batsmen. But he should also think about contributing with the willow. He has scored some fantastic knocks against India in the past and if Pakistan wants to win, they might need Afridi’s services with the bat as well. It is well known that Umar Gul is the best bowler in the world when it comes to the limited overs format and it was hardly a surprise that he has been right on the button from the word go. But whenever we talk about Pakistani attack one name always strikes in the mind, Shoaib Akhtar. His fitness levels might not be the best at this point of time,he might have lost his pace a bit, he might be in and out of the team.But in big games, you need experience and he is someone who can rise up to the occasion.Also this will be his last competitive tournament and he would want to retire on a high.Youngsters Umar Akmal and Saeed Ajmal have been fantastic. Fielding, as has always been, is a great cause of concern for Pakistan.Kamran Akmal has become a laughing stock because of his poor glove-work. In a big game, a great fielding performance can be the difference between winning and losing. This is where India, which is a far better fielding unit, scores more points over Pakistan.
Its time to put the head on the block. The match will depend on the kind of track the we will get at Mohali. If it ll be simlar to the one at Motera then no matter whoever bats second, will have no chance.But on a good pitch, it ll be a pulsating contest. Shoaib Akhtar and S Sreesanth should be drafted in. Unlike the Indian team which is a bunch of seasoned professionals,this Pakistani team is young and there are chances that the occasion might get to them.How well they handle the pressure and the intimidating atmosphere will go long way in deciding the fate of this game.India are a better team when it comes to the cricketing skills and if they play up to their potential, Pakistan will struggle no matter how well they play.