Himanshu Dubey

A dream game for every Indo-Pak player, a dream contest for every cricket fan is right at the doorway. It is very difficult to keep ones’ feet on the ground and fervor within limits, when cricket’s most fierce battle is about to be showcased. Another World Cup and another India-Pakistan thriller is anticipated and both sides will grease their elbows trying to outdo the opponent.

When the arch rivals lock horns with each other, emotions drip in excess, love turns to loyalty and a win becomes a matter of self-pride. The political history between the two countries adds on to the frenzy and ‘win-no- matter what’ situation gets to the nerves of not only the players but the fans too. It’s a war on the pitch.

While India have not lost to Pakistan in any of the games the two sides have played in the world Cups, Shahid Afridi led Pakistan will look to change the past and redraw the sketch for the future with a win on Wednesday.

Young team under a flamboyant leader, Pakistan have come up the ranks and so far played some extraordinary cricket leading them into the semis-a spot none thought they would achieve. Afridi has the Imran Khan like aura around him and his performance with the ball has been high class.

Leading wicket-taker in the tournament, Afridi must not be taken lightly with the bat. He has not done much with the bat yet, but India would not be oblivious of the havoc he can wreck when on song.

Another man on whom Pakistan will bank on, is former skipper Younus Khan. Playing against India is his fondness, he has a prolific record against the hosts and the not-in-form batsman loves to toil away the India bowlers.

Pak’s pace battery, Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar are sharpening their arsenal up to counter the Indians, however, suffering from poor form, Shoaib’s inclusion in the playing XI remains uncertain. But going by his past record against the likes of Tendulkar and Sehwag, Afridi might be tempted to take that risk and pick him up.

On the other hand, India came into the World Cup as hot favourites and they certainly are playing like a champion side. A win against Australia has infused in them a new and refreshing quotient of beating the unbeatable and now Dhoni and his men realize that now they are inches away from the coveted title, and this is the time to press the throttle a little more, play out of their skins to write themselves into history books.

A semi-final clash against Pakistan will get the best out of the Indians and the adrenaline rush will push them to expand the limits in order to show their true mettle.

MS Dhoni seems to have got the right combination, with Ashwin coming in and bowling splendidly well in the powerplay overs kept Dhoni relaxed in the last couple of matches. Zaheer Khan has been brilliant in the second spell and Pakistan will have to play him wisely, else he will give Pakistan, the taste of their own medicine-the reverse swing.

The hustle-bustle in the two countries will cease when the action kicks off on Wednesday afternoon. Hopes will be high on either side, who will play a game of their life, and the high tension wires will be stringing like the chords in the guitar.

(JPN/Bureau)