Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India versus Pakistan - War of Nerves

India clearly has the edge in terms of team and bench strength. It is clearly the best team in the tournament with a mix of experience and youth. So far, India has managed to get through without looking to stretch themselves - which they did to some extent against Australia. But this semi final against Pakistan will certainly stretch them. This match, will be more about nerves than about talent or scintillating performances. I also suspect that it will not be made of the quality of cricket that even the Australia match had - but it will get everyone tense.

Sachin would be expected to score. I would be happy if he just tore into the bowling and rattle the Pakistan bowlers in the first 15 overs. If we get the 100 plus in 15 overs with Sachin and Sehwag contributing say 50s, I will be more than happy. That will set up the platform for India and also rattle the slightly inexperienced Pakistani bowling side enough for India to look at 280 plus. I would look for Gambhir to play sheet anchor and hold the innings at one end and between Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni the 200 odd runs from 35 overs  can be managed. I also think that 280 plus might be iffy - 300 should be more like it to seal it. Perfectly doable unless nerves catch up which I don't think should be the case with the experience that the team has.

Pakistan will rely on Umar Gul and Afridi to keep things tight. It matters now how the other bowlers bowl - they are all good but unpredictable. Conditions suiting them, a couple of good catches or balls can open up things for Pakistan.

For Pakistan the batting looks as unsteady as ever with only the experienced Younis Khan and the Akmal brothers showing some form. But one can never write them off because they play our bowling well - seam and spin. It will boil down to their application and commitment and more, to how they handle their nerves.

If India bats first and posts the runs on board its always going to be easier in my opinion. Batting second in this high pressure match is something I would not be comfortable with. Bowling second would be a better option considering the experience in the bowling we have with Zaheer, (I'd play Nehra and not Sreesanth or Munaf) and Harbhajan. If Ashwin matches up which he can and Yuvraj gets his overs well, it would be tidy. I'd say in the end it will boil down to these things - how many wickets were thrown away by the batsmen, how many runs were saved and how many catches were taken / converted. It is balanced 60: 40 in India's favour if all goes according to plan. Pakistan's biggest advantage is that no one is expecting them to win - and if they can use that to their advantage they can upset India. But for that one needs the athleticism, attrition-tactics and the guerilla-like opportunism of New Zealand!

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