Billed as the ‘mother of all clashes’, bitter rivals India and Pakistan go into the high-voltage World Cup semi-final battle in Mohali on Wednesday in what promises to be an epic tussle of nerves and skills between two teams desperately seeking to regain the coveted trophy.
When the two captains walk out for the toss, two estranged nations who have fought wars in the past but have a common passion for cricket, will virtually come to a standstill with millions glued to the television sets to watch the blockbuster unfold.Shared history — albeit bitter — only adds to the emotional quotient of Indo-Pak contests where victory and defeat is not just a result but a matter of national pride.
The presence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani and a host of other dignitaries, the massive hype and build-up and the phenomenal interest the match has generated have set the stage for the 2011 World Cup’s biggest showdown.
Indo-Pak matches, which showcase one of the world’s most intense sporting rivalries, invariably boil down to handling the pressure in crunch situations.
With so much at stake, the team that handles the pressure better will travel to Mumbai for the summit showdown on 2nd April.
The potentially explosive clash on Wednesday is the first match between the two neighbouring countries on Indian soil after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai which led to the snapping of bilateral cricket ties between the two nations.
They have faced each other in four World Cup matches in the past and India have come out victories on all these occasions even though Pakistan have a clear edge in the overall record, winning 69 of their 119 clashes so far.
Even on Indian soil, Pakistan have the upper-hand in record books, having managed 17 wins in 26 matches.
But all these stats and reputation count for nothing as the team that plays better on the given day will win.
Defending champions Australia and stong contenders South Africa are already knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage which only goes to show that reputation alone does not win matches.
India appears to hold a slight edge over their traditional rivals and will look to capitalise on home advantage and the support of the crowd in pressure situations.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has sought to put up a brave face by stating that the Indians will not be under any undue pressure.
“The World Cup is being held in the sub-continent and India and Pakistan are playing in the semifinals. It does not get better. The pressure will be big, but in reality it makes no difference to us. It will be just a game. Indian cricket team has always been under pressure and we have handled it well”, Dhoni said on Tuesday.