By Boria Majumdar
And if players I have spoken to are to be believed, it is a match that none of the 22 who will take the field wants to lose. In fact, it is well and truly the match that matters.
There’s another side to the coin too. Supporters from both sides are here in Colombo and are having a great time together. It is the best example of what sport can really do- entertain and polarise at the same time. That’s always been the beauty of India-Pakistan cricket. Every time India has travelled to Pakistan, traveling journalists have made lifetime friends, men and women who share a lot in common. If growing people to people contact is one aspect of this rivalry, the fierce competition in the middle is something that draws fans from across the world to come and watch this special sports contest.
Senior journalist Shivendra Kumar Singh in his insightful book Yeh Jo Hai Pakistan, recently released in India, highlights this aspect beautifully. He writes, “I still remember that I did not have much luggage while going to Pakistan (in 2004) but as the trip drew to a close and I landed at Delhi airport I had a lot of luggage. This was part a result of my shopping and the fairly large number of gifts that I received from the people of Pakistan. The love and emotions behind the gifts outweighed my urge to refuse them. It would have been impolite too. The acts of gifting started in Karachi when a friend’s Abba gave me a shawl and trinket box saying, ‘Son keep this as a souvenir from us, we will always be in your memories.’ The box still occupies a place in my home and has been passed on to the next generation - my wife would keep her jewellery in it and now my daughter keeps her anklet there.”
The above description aptly highlights that India-Pakistan cricket isn’t only about animosity and hostility. Rather, it is a much treasured rivalry that world cricket badly needs. In fact, it is the only match of this ongoing World T-20 that has been sold out months in advance with people from across the sub-continent flocking to Colombo to make it a Sunday well spent.
Moving on to the match itself there’s hardly anything to choose from between the two sides. Pakistan may have just outwitted the Indians in the warm up match thanks to the heroics of Kamran Akmal and Shaoib Malik, but with the pitches offering slightly more turn and becoming a lot drier, the Indian spinners too will fancy their chances come Sunday. In fact, it might well turn out to be a contest between four very different but able bowlers in Saeed Ajmal, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Hafeez and Harbhajan Singh. Bowling 16 of the 40 overs between them, each of these four off spinners might decide the fate of the match.
In batting India definitely has a little more firepower. While Nasir Jamshed and the Akmal brothers are in great form and Pakistan has a very good finisher in Shoaib Malik, the Indian batting firepower goes deep down. With Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma well on course to making the tournament their own, India does look like having a slight edge.
But with Pakistan being a far better fielding side, it is a match that can go either way and might well boil down to the question of desire on the day- which of the two teams wants to win more desperately. With the rains expected to stay away and the 30,000 plus fans making a lot of noise, it will be a night when the World T-20 really comes alive.
Deep down players’ from both teams are hoping that each of the two teams make the semi-finals and make possible a repeat of the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa in 2007. If that does happen, all stakeholders will be laughing their way to the bank.
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