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Sunday showdown, India take on Pakistan in virtual semifinal

Sunday, 2 March 2014 - 8:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Arch-rivals India, Pakistan square off today with both teams desperate for a win

Both India and Pakistan are sailing in the same boat in this tournament. Weird, isn't it?

But the fact remains that with one win and one loss each – both wins coming against 'minnows' – the arch-rivals will face off in Mirpur on Sunday desperate for a victory to stay alive in the tournament. While India edged past Bangladesh before losing to Sri Lanka two days back, Pakistan went down in their opener to Lanka, but managed to survive a scare from Afghanistan to win with a bonus point.

The similarity doesn't end there. Both captains – Virat Kohli and Misbah-ul-Haq – have problems aplenty. For Kohli, it firstly starts with the team selection. If they are to continue with Stuart Binny, surely he has to do more than bat at No. 8 and bowl four overs. It would be worthwhile for Kohli to get an extra specialist batsman or bowler instead. Cheteshwar Pujara is too much class to be sitting on the sidelines for too long. Play him, and avoid a collapse of the kind against Sri Lanka. Ishwar Pandey is another option, for India need that solid bowler in the end. In any case, going by India's recent performances and Pakistan's fragile batting line-up, playing with an extra bowler wouldn't harm Kohli much. Like they say, attack the opposition's weaknesses.

That sorted, India's middle-order is starting to look more and more insipid without MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. Kohli admitted as much after India's loss to Sri Lanka, where Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and Binny all went in quick succession. Against a Pakistani bowling attack oozing class, they will be put under further pressure.

And lastly, the fielding. If you drop three catches and miss an easy stumping, you won't win many cricket matches.

On a happier note, Kohli will fondly remember the last time the two teams met in this tournament. His 183 off 148 balls to chase down 330 was worthy of a blockbuster movie, and if he can repeat that again, Pakistan can forget about a win. Also, India have managed to get the better of Pakistan three times in their last five meetings, with their last win coming in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, where they comfortably won by eight wickets.

But the sheer importance of this contest will mean that the past records will have little relevance. In any case, previous results count for nothing when it comes to an Indo-Pak contest. It's all about the pressure, seizing the moment and controlling the overflowing juices.

Come Sunday, and it will count the most.

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