In 1986, Javed Miandad had smashed Chetan Sharma for a last-ball six to steer Pakistan to victory in the final of Asia Cup in Sharjah. At that time the T20 format didn’t even exist.
Years later in 2007, India could have suffered a similar fate. Thankfully, this time it was Pakistan at the receiving end. As Misbah-ul-Haq tried to go for another six off the last ball, he was caught at short fine-leg by Sreesanth. With that India became the 2007 T20 World Cup Champions.
The last time the two sides played in a T20 match was at the ICC World Cup earlier this year. At that time India were responsible for throwing Pakistan out of contention.
The drama, frenzy never dies in an India-Pakistan match. Off the field as affable as the players may try to sound, the picture on field could be as volatile.
India skipper MS Dhoni said that both teams would try as far as possible to avoid any untoward incident on the pitch, but then agreed that while playing for country it was sometimes difficult to restrain. “As far as sledging and controlling emotions go, both teams will wish that such a thing — that can be a point of debate — doesn’t happen,” he said. “But if you’re playing for your country, some bickering, arguing will keep happening.”
Emotions apart, when India take on Pakistan in the first of the two T20s, the result is likely to be as unpredictable as the last-ball Sreesanth catch. Though not overtly vocal, Pakistan will definitely be banking on their ace off spinner Saeed Ajmal to “bamboozle” the Indian batsmen in his own words. But then the same Ajmal could not pluck out a single Indian batsmen in the World Cup match earlier this year.
On the other hand, the Indian batsmen traditionally good players of spin struggled against England’s Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. Yet again, Pakistan’s bowling unit is also about Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Shahid Afridi who have proved themselves effective in this pygmy version of the game.
For India, the bowling has been its Achilles Heel for some time now. Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana’s bountiful performance in the last T20 against England gives little hope.
Surprisingly, for India it was part-timer Yuvraj Singh who did exceedingly well bowling brilliantly in both the matches against England. India were found wanting against a depleted England side. So a young full-strength Pakistan side could as well ring the death knell for India.
If bowling is India’s Achilles Heel, then fielding is Pakistan chink in the armour. The Pakistan team conceded at least 15 runs in misfields in their last match against India. Kohli who went on to become the hero of Indian victory was dropped by Umar Akmal. And this is where India could actually make a difference.
With sharp catchers like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Yuvraj Singh among them, the team can easily expect to save 10-15 runs. In T20s, every run saved gets you closer to victory.