Those who want to rebuff me at this stage by pointing out that “TheAshes” is the number one rivalry in the game, can save their breaths.Pakistan and India have fought three wars against each other! How many have Australia and England fought?
As rivalries go, they don’t come any bigger than this. The tension is palpable in the air when these two great cricketing nations go head to head.
The last time these teams competed against each other, it was theWorld Cup semi-final almost a year ago. The match was played in front of the Prime Ministers of both the countries and lived up to its billing of ‘Match of the World Cup.’ India turned out to be victorious on that occasion.
The stakes are not so high this time round but that hardly matters. Whenever there is an India-Pakistan match over a billion people hold their collective breaths to see which team will rule the roost for the day.
Some try to dismiss the match, and the outcome, as merely a game, but for most it is a matter of nationalism and George Orwell’s words that sports is ‘war minus the shooting’ ring clearly in their ears. This sense is fuelled further as the regional political environment doesn’t allow the two neighbors to play as often as they would like.
As usual the match will be a battle between India’s batting and Pakistan’s bowling. India appears to have an edge considering they put in a few decent performances in the recently concluded CB Series in Australia and comfortably chased down a target of 300 plus in 36 overs in what turned out to be their last match of the tour. Pakistan, on the other hand, was humbled by England in the ODIs and T20s after a magnificent performance in the Test Series. The players looked jaded and tired. The performances so far in the tournament seem to favor India as well.
Pakistan has had better of India on most occasions and lead the ODIs wins tally 69-47 but has never won against India in any of the World Cup matches played. The month of March has been especially unkind to Pakistan where the matches against their neighbor are concerned. Four of the five ODI World Cup matches between the two teams have been played in the month of March with Pakistan ending up on the losing side in all of them. Will this be the match that heralds a change?
If this history and talk of nationalism is not enough, Pakistan’s captain Misbah ul Haq has a special bone to pick with India. No matter what heights he leads Pakistan to; Misbah will always be remembered for his two failures against the arch rivals, World T20 Final 2007 and ODI World Cup Semi-Final 2011. His inability to lead the team over the rope in these two crucial encounters made him the villain in the eyes of his countrymen and this aura will only be shredded if he leads Pakistan to a win over India. This will be the motivating/driving force for Misbah come March 18.
All in all, this will be “the” encounter of the Asia Cup unless both these teams feature in the final. The organizers got it right by slotting it in for a Sunday, for when Pakistan and India play, the streets are virtually empty, as if a curfew is in place.
Promo Clip of Asia Cup 2012 – 5th ODI played between India and Pakistan on March 18th 2012 at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur