John Wright must be commended for the fight he has brought into the Kiwis. The beating boys of the cricket world not too long ago, they made it to the Semis beating South Africa and also scalping Pakistan in the group stages. They also all but exposed the soft belly of the Sri Lankan batting while defending a modest 217 runs. They managed to stretch the game to the 47th over when at one stage it looked like Dilshan and Sanga would finish it off in 40. Sri Lanka needed a tough game and they came through. Now they wil be tough to beat in the final. The match had its moments – Murali picking up a wicket of the last ball he will ever bowl in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s excellent attack strangling the Kiwis after they were 153 for 3 at one stage, Jesse Ryder’s amazing catch and the never say die spirit of the Black Caps. So one of the favourites has safely made it through to the finals. Now how will India the other favourite fare against arch rival Pakistan.
It’s the biggest of all cricket clashes, all rivalries including Aus v/s Eng cannot match up to the sheer exhilration of this clash. The tension is in the air and you can feel it distictly in India. It is like Argentina V/s Brazil in a soccer game. Passionate fans are talking in the streets about the possible outcomes. There is going to be no one on Indian roads at 2:30 p.m tomorrow
India do have the better team this time around. Pakistani bowling is good but not great. They have the variety and the form but one feels unless India bats very poorly they don’t really threaten the great Indian batting. However the pressure of expectations can cause any side to crumble and that is what India have to avoid. India are a little lean on the bowling side but Ashwin coming in has changed their approach. I would play Sreesanth in Mohali. Zaheer, Sree, Ashwin, Yuvraj and Bhajji should form a competent attack against an average Pakistani batting side.
However everyone in India knows how the mercurial Pakistani side can make all predictions look utterly nonsensical. Afridi, Gul and Misbah are the danger men. Ajmal against the tail is also deadly.
I am looking forward to the Sachin-Akthar clash if it materializes and a Sehwag Special tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how India field. If they follow anything like they did against Australia, they will be hard to beat. The Mohali pitch is bound to be good for batting but might not be an out and out flat track. There will be some bounce and dew could be a factor.
As one auto rickshaw driver ( read cricket expert) aired his views to me today, I hope the game is not hampered by any bad decisions by Captains, Players or Umpires, due to the immense pressure of expectation He was referring to Saurav Ganguly choosing to field on a batting beauty in the 2003 Final. Yes, games are often won in between the ears and with India Pakistan clashes, the possibility of such mistakes is very real. Ask Misbah about the shot he played in the inaugural T20 World Cup or Chetan Sharma about his last ball to Javed Miandad at Shrajah or Aamir Sohail getting carried away with aggression against Prasad at Bangalore in 1996.
Two nations await with bated breath for the toss at Mohali, the Mother of all cricket battles is about to unfold and I am confident it will justify it’s hype!!