The burden of history is against Pakistan. Each cricket match may be a separate entity, but there is no escaping the context when it comes to these high profile clashes with India in the World Cup. To avoid the tennis score humiliation of 6-0, Pakistan may have to play out of their skins at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
The Indians have been in Adelaide longer in the last few months than in their own homes, spending a lot of time while they waited for the Test series to begin in the wake of the tragic demise of Phillip Hughes and then again in preparation for the World Cup. To say they are familiar with every blade of grass at Les Burdett’s Oval would be an understatement.
The Indians have the wood on the Pakistanis when it comes to the 50-overs World Cup to the extent the latter think there is a jinx to it. Retrospective analysis would suggest that the Pakistanis have come apart mainly in the chase because they simply cannot take the pressure. The manner in which they let their emotions take over when playing India could be the reason. Sports psychologists perhaps think so too.
The adrenalin rush is very necessary in sport, it spurs great deeds in the face of adversity. But an excess of it has probably ruined the chances of a bunch of cricketers known to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. In contrast, the Indians, when they are in the middle, have tended to take matches against Pakistan as just another game of cricket.
The same levels of anxiety may rule in their heads ahead of the game but in the arena of action, the Indian cricketer is far more professional than his erratic counterpart. This is probably a reflection of life itself in the two countries, a settled India much more likely to lead to a clam temperament than the eternally bubbling challenges of everyday life in Pakistan.
The Pakistani collapses in the face of targets would make the decision at the toss a complete no-brainer. Dhoni should grab the chance to put up a total on the board if the coin lands in his favour. Afiridi will probably do the same, although with Pakistan you never know. Take Wasim Akram’s decision to bat first in the final at Lord’s in 1999 against Australia when all the signs, most of all the thick cloud cover amid a threat of rain, pointed to the opposite.
Team India may not be in the best state of mind at the moment. But there is nothing like a match against Pakistan to wake up all the cricketing senses. The capacity crowd could make the atmosphere electric at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday. The match is likely to be the most watched cricket event universally since the Mohali semi-final in 2011. The eyes of the cricket world will be on the match of matches. In five meetings stretching across 23 years, Team India have shown they can handle the stress.