Even as Yuvraj Singh lofted Saeed Ajmal for three sixes in the penultimate over on Friday, a couple of Pakistan’s veteran cricketers were silently working away at the Chepauk.
It’s difficult not to remember Misbah-ul-Haq, the man who almost took away the 2007 World T20 trophy from India. He may not play in the T20s anymore but now he is Pakistan’s ODI captain and the more dangerous for his experience. Younus Khan, another senior player, has always been a thorny proposition to India.
With both India and Pakistan sharing the spoils in the T20s, both the countries will now take their battle to the next level, and this time it will be the experience rather than intrepid flair that will take either side the distance.
Both Misbah and Younus have been in the side long enough to give credence to their maturity tag. While Pakistan abound in young talent, brashness does seem to creep in time and again and here is where these two players will be emotional levellers.
The pressure is only set to increase as the series graduates to the next level. Pakistan will bank on the two senior players in their side to guide them in hours of intensity. Both Younus and Misbah have played against India and know the intensity of these matches.
Bowling, as evident so far, remains Pakistan’s strong suit. Mohammad Irfan has been a ‘tall’ order for the Indians, both literally and figuratively. With the likes of Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal adding teeth to the attack, the onus will be on the young batsmen in the side to fire.
For India, Yuvraj Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are the positives that have emerged from the two T20s. Yuvraj’s scintillating 36-ball 72 in the second T20 gives hope that the form could be transmuted into the ODI arena too.
After an impressive three-wicket haul in the first T20, Bhuvaneshwar couldn’t get the same nip and movement on Motera’s belter. It would be interesting to test his skills in the longer format. With his natural swing, he could be an ideal foil to Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda.
Meanwhile, Virender Sehwag returns to the top, though like Gautam Gambhir, he hasn’t quite been prolific in the shorter format in recent times.
And then there is the Chepauk factor. It’s been raining here since Friday evening. Although the stadium has fine water-drying facilities, the MeT’s predictions of light to heavy showers on Sunday means the match could be called off without a ball being bowled.
As for playing at Chepauk, it is something Pakistan should cherish. They have fond memories of this venue. A onetime ODI record of 194, a standing ovation by an appreciative crowd two years later and a 10-wicket haul in the Test. Probably, this Pakistan side could add to the list.