Sunday. February 15. A sizeable population in the planet will be watching the proceedings at the Adelaide Oval – either directly or through television or computers. Forget the Ashes. This is cricket’s biggest rivalry – the sub-continental derby, if you prefer. This is the sixth time Pakistan and India cross path in the World Cup history. You know the stats, right? India 5 Pakistan 0.
Can Pakistan taste their first victory over their arch rivals this time around? Not many outside Pakistan predict a change in the trend. A quick glance in the betting odds of the match will confirm this. Still, it is not going to be a smooth passage for India. Here is our preview, with a prediction, of the blockbuster match of this World Cup.
Their recent form does not give an advantage to any of these teams. Both the teams have been struggling. Indians, who are batting kings at home, are currently living a tough life at the crease in exile in Australia. They don’t know from where the next century comes.
Pakistan, always a mercurial side, has had an almost equal share of wins and losses over the last year or so. For them, recent form counts for nothing. Which side of the bed the players get up on the match day, perhaps does.
Like recent form, history normally means nothing to Pakistan. But this time it does – all because of the 5-0 statistics. Everybody is talking about it. The players have declared their intent to alter it. Beating India has become an end, not a means to win the World Cup.
Perhaps, Pakistan will fancy their chances this time, as this is the first time in World Cup history that Pakistan faces India without Sachin Tendulkar. Curiously, Tendulkar produced influential performances – often with the bat, but occasionally with the ball too – in each of these games. He was the man of the match in three of these five matches.
The preparation of the teams is fast becoming a comedy of errors. India arrived in Australia more than two months ahead of the World Cup. The planning was to get acclimatised to the conditions. They would play a test series and a triangular ODI tournament before the World Cup.
Now, after about two months in Australia, the Indian players are getting insanely homesick. Their captain himself has complained that it is tough staying away from home for more than a couple of months. Now, the talks are on about bringing the team back to India for a few days before the World Cup!
Pakistan has not played a series in Australia in the last three years or so. This is the first Australian tour for most of their World Cup players. They have arrived in Australia a few weeks before the tournament. Now, they appear fresh and relaxed, while the Indian players appear fatigued and aloof.
While it was not intended that way, the preparation of the teams gives Pakistan a slight advantage.
In four of the five World Cup encounters against Pakistan, India happened to bat first. The best chance for Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval is to let India batting first again. The Adelaide pitch is relatively low-bounce pitch in Australia that offers some spin. The ground is one of the biggest in the World. The six-hitters in the Indian batting line-up may not find it easy to clear the boundaries. The likes of Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq, on the other hand, will have plenty of spaces to collect their twos and threes.
All the odds seem to be in favor of Pakistan for this match.