Virat Kohli scored 105 and took the catch to dismiss Shahid Afridi, helping India to a 76-run win against Pakistan in Adelaide, ICC Cricket World Cup, 4th Match, Pool B: India v Pakistan at Adelaide, Feb 15, 2015
Hours of play (local time) 14.00 start, First Session 14.00-17.30, Interval 17.30-18.15, Second Session 18.15-21.45
There was no escaping the word pressure and, consequently, the emotion itself as thousands of Indian and Pakistani fans descended on the sleepy South Australian city of Adelaide and got ready to bring a sub-continental flavour to the Adelaide Oval when India and Pakistan strive to win full points in the Pool B contest at the WC 2015 on Sunday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Misbah-ul-Haq, captains of the India and Pakistan teams in the WC 2015, may be masters at concealing their emotions on their field. But the hordes of fans at the final nets sessions and the inevitable questions at the media interaction reminded them of the pressure that the high-voltage contest can bring along.
Dhoni and Misbah sought to underplay the pressure that can be brought to bear on the players in the sub-continental derby, though they did accept that the intensity in the India-Pakistan games rises by a few notches. It was not as if they sought to live in denial but, truth to tell, the two captains have had cricketing issues to deal with in the recent times.
India’s bowling and Pakistan’s batting have not been in the pink of form and the captains, along with coaches Duncan Fletcher and Waqar Younis respectively, have spent time addressing these on a more urgent basis than worrying as much about the capacity of the players to deal with the pressure of playing in front of about 53,000 fans and against the neighbouring squad.
As Dhoni pointed out, his primary concern remains the propensity of the new ball bowlers to concede boundaries in the first 10 overs. Over the past few days, they have worked on setting this right. On the long tour of Australia, Indian bowlers have struggled with hitting the right length but the team has sought to leave the defeats behind and attempt not to repeat mistakes.
Pakistan are fairly fresh, having played only two ODIs in 2015 and are determined to give themselves the chance of making history with a maiden World Cup victory over India. Their bowlers give a fairly good account of themselves in these conditions and, with Waqar coaching the side, you could expect the attack to be on top of their game.
Misbah and Waqar may try and exploit the perceived weakness of many Indian batsmen against the short, rising delivery by playing fast medium bowlers Mohammed Irfan, Bilawal Bhatti and Ehsan Adil and relying on Shahid Afridi to deliver efficiently in the spin department. The fifth bowler’s quota of 10 overs may be shared by Younis Khan, Haris Sohail and Ahmed Shehzad.
Ideally, Pakistan must have the confidence to play legspinner Yasir Shah against India since he bowled superbly against England in the warm-up game in Sydney earlier this week. But it remains to be seen if they would expose him against India. They are more likely to use him against other teams, not as good as India against top-class legspin.
Pakistan may be forced to resort to a combination of part-time bowlers to share 10 overs since their batting hasn’t come good as well as they would have liked. Younis, Misbah and Afridi bring a lot of experience to the table while Shehzad can demoralise bowlers and Umar Akmal is capable of effortless acceleration.
With a sellout crowd promising to register the highest decibel levels known at the Adelaide Oval, you can be sure that the stage itself can be very inspirational and at once intimidating. It is unlikely, though, that the key players will let pressure get to them. On the contrary, we may get to see them feed off the pressure and deliver a great contest.