How important it is to start 2013 on a winning note and erase the bad memories of the year gone by? MS Dhoni and his men know this all too well. India are under pressure to win the second and penultimate ODI on Thursday against Pakistan, who feel more at ‘home’ at the Eden Gardens than the hosts.
India, gradually coming to terms with life without Sachin Tendulkar in ODIs, returns to Kolkata with a lot of expectations and a point to prove. About a month ago, they lost the Test series here to England, and the pitch was the bone of contention.
That may not be the talking point this time. The Eden Gardens usually dishes out a good batting wicket. India needn’t be told that it’ll all come down to which side posts the big runs. When the batting fires, India look a different team.
On paper, the two sides are evenly matched, though the visitors have an edge in bowling. The emergence of Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan — both are quite a handful in helpful conditions — could give Pakistan hope that they can again rock India in the initial overs. Not to forget the variations of Saeed Ajmal.
India’s credentials in batting are well established. It’s another matter that the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma have had an extended lean patch as evident in the Chennai ODI where they struggled in overcast conditions.
The wait is on for Sehwag’s ‘one knock’ that could turn the corner. Will that innings come on Thursday? Meanwhile, there’s good news for India. Virat Kohli, who sprained a leg in the last ODI, is available for selection, confirmed MS Dhoni.
Pakistan should be keen to settle the issue here. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq is not worried about himself not scoring a century in 107 matches so long he’s making “useful contributions to the team’s wins”. Given the power-hitters in his line-up, the Kolkata crowd can be assured of an engrossing encounter.