Confused, low on confidence, playing as if with the weight of the world on their shoulders, India find themselves in a tight corner. Their trusted players are not performing, and some of the reserves provided by the selectors are not good enough. And for the first time there are questions around the captain’s place in the side: he strikes at 110 runs per 100 balls, has never scored a T20I fifty, and twice in India’s three last defeats he has hurt the side’s momentum, failing to score a run a ball in the latter half of the innings. One more defeat, and India won’t even have a backdoor entry left after their massive negative run-rate.
India do seem to have turned the tables from the time Pakistan used to dominate this “rivalry”. Since the start of 2006, India have won 15 and lost eight internationals against Pakistan, but still trail the head-to-head 58 to 81. Pakistan, though, will be feeling good about their game after having pulled off an improbable win over South Africa. And their bowlers might not have had the best of tournaments until Friday, but they do remain a threat. They will also know from first-hand experience during the warm-up game that Indian bowlers can be bossed when put under the slightest of pumps.
Pakistan have a statistic to set right, though: they have never beaten India in any 50-over or 20-over World Cup match.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Nasir Jamshed scored a fine century the last time Pakistan played India, but was denied a win by a superlative 183 from Virat Kohli. The two are the most promising young batting talents from the respective countries, both have been batting at No. 3 so far, and hold the key to a solid innings for their side.
India’s opening – whether with the bat or with the ball – is now a matter of major speculation after the Irfan Pathan experiment with the bat and the R Ashwin one with the ball. Surely Irfan has got to get the new ball if he is to be used as a bowler? And surely India must want their specialist batsmen to get most of the overs?
Umar Gul may have won the previous match with the bat, but where has Gul the yorker-bowler disappeared? In 10 T20 matches this year, Gul has conceded runs at 8.4 an over, as opposed to an impressive career economy-rate of 6.88.
After the England match, Dhoni said he had problems of plenty at his hand. Less than 35 overs of cricket later, he has plenty of problems. Does he stand by his decision of keeping Virender Sehwag out and playing five bowlers? Does he look at the place of Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma in that middle order? Will Manoj Tiwary ever get to play a live game? What does he do with an under-performing Zaheer Khan? What does he do with his own form? Only one thing might be certain at this time: Piyush Chawla’s yet other, inexplicable, comeback might have ended.
India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Rohit Sharma/Manoj Tiwary, 7 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Harbhajan Singh, 11 Zaheer Khan
Pakistan will be questioning Shahid Afridi’s utility as a bowler who bats at No. 7. He has done his bit with the ball so far. He is the only Pakistan bowler other than Saeed Ajmal to have bowled all his overs in every match so far, and has conceded runs at only 6.33 an over. That should be enough to keep his place in the XI, but his six-or-nothing batting at No. 7 will remain a cause for worry.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt.), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Nasir Jamshed, 4 Kamran Akmal (wk), 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Yasir Arafat, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Raza Hasan.
Pitch and conditions
Conditions at the R Premadasa Stadium now present an interesting dilemma. The curator has now begun to leave the pitch dry, which should make you want to bat first. However, with the ever-present threat of the rain you also want to exploit the Duckworth-Lewis anomaly and avoid the wet outfield.
Stats and trivia
- Shoaib Malik loves playing India. His overall international average is 31.67 over 282 matches, but in 38 matches against India he has scored four of those nine centuries and has averaged 46.41. In an unrelated incident he has married an Indian, tennis player Sania Mirza.
- Pakistan and India have never played each other in a T20 international outside the World Twenty20.
“For me I think Virender Sehwag can be very dangerous. I hope he’ll play the next two games. I think it won’t be easy to play the next two games without him.”
Suresh Raina to BBC
“When we play India there is lot of pressure because our people always want us to win. The same is the case in India, so there will be pressure on both teams.”
Umar Gul hints at implications other than just progression in the tournament whenever Pakistan play India