Yuvraj Singh (right) would be the key for India © Getty Images
It is a rivalry so intense that the world’s most populous region comes to a standstill. In all these years, these contests have produced some of the most riveting cricket — moments that could either boost a team for years or haunt them. When India and Pakistan face each other on the cricket field, it is a no-holds-barred affair with the two sides trying every trick in the book to get the better of each other. The seeds of the rivalry lie deep in history and the passion lives on.
It has been five years since India and Pakistan last faced each other in a bilateral series and this makes the ongoing tour a historic affair. They have faced each other in a number of multi-nation tournaments, but a tour like this has the power to bring these two countries closer. The isolated encounters may have produced great enthusiasm, but the same is sustained during a series.
The M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore would host the curtain raiser with a T20 international in store. India come into this series at the back of a tied affair against England. During that series, their bowling was brutally exposed and the frontline bowlers weren’t convincing at all. It was only due to the efforts of Yuvraj Singh that India limited the damage, but with the others struggling, it wasn’t enough in the second T20 at Mumbai.
The pace-bowling attack in particular doesn’t look all that strong with Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana forming the line-up. The duo has done well in domestic cricket, but they are new to internationals and may take some time to set in. The experience is clearly lacking and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was right in pointing out that they would only get better as they progress. Dinda has been impressive apart from the last over in the game at Mumbai. However, Awana needs to be backed as he has had a torrid start to his international career. There is potential and it is imperative that he is nurtured well and supported. Otherwise he would join the long list of Indian fast bowlers who have fallen by the wayside over the years.
There are no concerns surrounding the Indian batting and it remains their biggest strength. Virat Kohli looked in sublime touch at Mumbai and it looks like the Test hundred at Nagpur has done him a world of good. It is also great to see Dhoni taking the attack to the bowlers as he has generally been more sedate in T20 internationals. Yuvraj would perhaps be the key — batting at that number four spot and he can change the game in the matter of an over or two.
Mohammad Hafeez leads a Pakistan side with the right mix of youth and experience. The most impressive thing about this Pakistan side is the balance and the depth. They have able replacements for each player and aren’t overly dependent on one. Having said that, Saeed Ajmal may be the exception as Pakistan have looked up to him for some magic for quite some time. As some of the veterans pointed out, Ajmal would be the decisive factor and the Indians must have done their homework prior to the series.
The only thing Pakistan must guard against is nerves. India have had the better of them in recent encounters and that might play on the tourists’ mind. Inzamam-ul-Haq also advised the Pakistan players to remain calm and Hafeez needs to ensure his side absorbs the pressure well.
Pressure is something that has often defined contests between the two sides. The one that handles it better always emerges on top. Will India continue to dominate or would Pakistan change that trend?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)