Pakistan vs India: An epic battle of nerves beckons
Indian fans have already decided that the match will be won by India - the pressure of expectations is on Dhoni.
All the euphoria that followed Pakistan’s fantastic victory over West Indies is well justified.
One rarely associates such an accomplished performance from a Pakistani team, and it has been a heart-warming experience witnessing such a spectacle.
India’s win over Australia has set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash between the arch-rivals. In my opinion, India as hosts will be the team under greater amount of pressure.
The Indian public seems to have decided the result of the match already, with everyone taking a victory for the hosts as granted. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men are sure to feel the burden of such huge expectations when they take the field in front of 45,000 screaming fans, most of them expecting nothing less than a victory for India.
This will definitely pose a great psychological mountain for the hosts to climb. Dhoni has a huge task on his hands. Every move that he makes as a captain will come under scrutiny and he will have to be spot-on with his decision-making, which will not be an easy task as even the coolest minds can have their composure rattled, in a high-profile encounter as this one.
This is not to say that the Pakistan will find the going any easier. They face the prospect of facing the best batting line-up in the world that is in good touch.
Shahid Afridi will need to make a few tough calls in this all-important match.
Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag form a formidable opening partnership whose exploits in the Powerplay overs has given India some spectacular starts. It will be very important for Pakistan’s opening bowlers to dismiss them quickly if they want to restrict India to a manageable total.
Here Umar Gul will play the key role. His line and length have been immaculate and his knack for taking wickets with the new ball has been one of the reasons behind Pakistan’s success in the tournament so far.
Gul’s new-ball partner in the last match was Mohammad Hafeez who put up an impressive show. Some may find it a risky move to open the bowling with a spinner at one end against the likes of Tendulkar and Sehwag but I think the off-spinner should be given another chance with the new ball.
The move might just pay off again, and if it does not, Afridi can always hand the ball over to a fast-bowler after a couple of overs from Hafeez.
Afridi has matured as captain over the last year and commands the respect of his teammates. He has turned around the fortunes of a side that until only a few months ago was not considered a serious contender for the World Cup.
All that has changed now. It will be an epic battle of nerves and the side that is better able to deal with the pressure that comes with playing such a high profile encounter, will surely come out on top.
Published in The Express Tribune.