MANCHESTER: History, geography, politics, diplomacy… India-Pakistan matches have had little to do with cricket and lots to do with rhetoric and grandstanding. However, at the end of the day, it’s only a game of cricket.
And that’s how the players, who actually carry the burden of performing in the middle, would like it to be. That’s what the coaches try to instill in their minds. They would like to treat it as ‘just another game’, even if it’s the World Cup and so much is at stake. Otherwise, the pressure would be intense and performance meagre.
As the two camps prepared for the Sunday date, they also had an eye on the weather which has literally played havoc with the Cup schedule. The weather played hide and seek on Saturday with sun jostling through the threatening clouds intermittently, brightening up things. After several days of rain and no sunshine, the elements had turned friendly on Friday, allowing the groundstaff to put in some serious work on the pitch and the outfield. The rains came back to lash the city in the evening.
Dark clouds hovered over Old Trafford for most of the day, a grim reminder that weather may have the last laugh. As it is, met forecasters are anticipating rain on Sunday, with a higher probability of it in the second half of the day. Clearly, the teams will have to keep it in their plans for the game as a curtailed game and the Duckworth-Lewis equation are very much on the cards.
There was no rain when the Indian team trained. The batters had to go for indoor training as nets were not possible on the wet ground. But they could at least do some physical training, catching practice and fielding drills. The Pakistan team, which was to practice in the second half of the day, was kept completely indoors as the heavens opened up yet again at around 1.30 pm. The downpour continued long enough to raise fresh doubts over the game millions have been looking forward to, for so long.
In overcast conditions, the seamers are likely to get good purchase and there lies the big test of the Indian batsmen. They have to guard against giving early wickets to Mohammad Amir and Co. Amir looked at his penetrative best in Pakistan’s last game against Australia even though his stupendous effort (10-2-30-5) was in a losing cause. He had little support from other seamers as Pakistan allowed Australia to get 300-plus in seam friendly conditions.
The last time the two countries met in England, it was Amir’s opening burst which shut India out in the 2017 Champions Trophy final at The Oval, the left-arm pacer scalping Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan for next to nothing. India are aware of the Amir threat. Skipper Virat Kohli said he and the other batsmen in the team backed themselves to counter the impact bowlers.
“I don’t see it a massive challenge. If you play good cricket, follow basics better than the opposition, then you end up winning the game. If we do our skills well that is enough. Our focus will be that and to do it consistently as it is a long tournament,” said India captain Virat Kohli.
India are obviously a more professional, well-rounded team and are favourites for the game. A crucial area where they can outplay Pakistan is fielding. But if it’s a curtailed game, luck can edge pluck.
Pakistan, who have never beaten India in the World Cup, will have to be at their best to beat this Indian side. Their coach Mickey Arthur said that his boys were very excited about the game and in a very good space. It’s time to execute the plans and put the jinx to rest.
The Old Trafford pitch wore a brown and flat look on Saturday, something which would have pleased the batsmen. But when it’s monsoon time in Manchester and there is moisture in the air, the seamers will more than fancy their chances.
It’s all set for the mega battle. Over to the weather gods.
Source : timesofindia