PAKISTAN VS INDIA
I was told that I have been "awfully quiet" on the subject by someone today. I think otherwise, considering my activity on Facebook, but yes what was missing was a post. After all it is the grand daddy of all cricket matches and I really should have posted at least once on each day leading up to the match, but it was also the last week of my MBA program, which kept me tied up till last night.
The MBA is over now. The World Cup will be as well soon and life will come to a stand still. Come 3rd April, I wouldn't know what to do with my day... but before that, all my thoughts on the match that is just 7 hours away!
HISTORY DOESN'T MATTER
Pakistan have never beaten India in a World Cup game.
Pakistan have never lost to India in Mohali in the last two decades.
Pakistan successfully chased 320 odd in the last ODI between them at Mohali.
Pakistan has a better overall record against India.
All this will matter for little when the two teams step on to the field to battle it out for a spot in the ICC World Cup Final 2011.
SRI LANKA'S ACHIEVEMENT
Before I go on about this grand daddy of a match, I just want to mention the neglected Sri Lankans who have sort of made history. They have become the first Asian team to make it to the ODI World Cup Final for a second successive time - if you are forgetting, they were finalists in 2007 also!
Plus, the Sri Lankans will be a part of the first ever All Asian World Cup Final on Saturday! This is big!
THE MOST IMPORTANT PAKISTAN VS INDIA GAME?
Who the Lankans will face is another question altogether.
Pakistan or India?
Surely, this has got to be the most important Pakistan vs India cricket match ever. In the history of cricket. Hell, in the history of sport.
Yes there have been a World T20 final, a World Cup quarter final, numerous Sharjah Cup finals, AustralAsia Cup finals, Asia Cup finals, and various other important Pakistan vs India games.
But... it really hasn't ever been bigger than this.
Its the World Cup and its for a spot in the final!
PAKISTAN VS INDIA & THE POWER OF FACEBOOK
The frenzy around this match has been crazy... There have been so many pictures, videos, comments around this match that it has really been hard to follow. I have to say though that some of pictures and comments that have come out of this frenzy have been pure genius.
I don't remember this type of hype for any Pakistan vs India match. Or maybe its just the power of the social networks that I now see the hype from millions (well not really but...) of people than from a select few before Facebook, Twitter, & Blogger became a part of our lives.
The power of the social networks is such that I've witnessed random banter between my Indian and Pakistani friends who don't know each other at all.
The beauty of cricket I say. Moreso the beauty of Pakistan vs India and the power of Facebook!
ODDS IN FAVOUR OF INDIA
The match is 7 hours away and people all around the world are eagerly waiting in anticipation. As am I.
Both sides have got the talent to win the game, but at the end of the day it is really going to be a battle between Pakistan's bowling and India's batting. In Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul, Pakistan have two of the leading wicket takers in the World Cup, while Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Yuvraj Singh are among the leading run scorers.
But then most Pakistan v India battles have been the same - always our bowling, against India's batting.
The odds, however, are stacked in India'a favour. As they should be. They started the tournament as one of the favourites, they are playing at home, and on paper are the strong side.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have done what Pakistan does best - Forgot about Ijaz Butt, the hopeless PCB Chairman, the revolts and dressing room politics, the spot fixing scandal, and all the off-field issues that plagued them for the last 3-4 years and just turned up on the field to play the kind of cricket they excel at - fearless and aggressive.
THE POWER OF AFRIDI
For me, this is due to the one and only Shahid Afridi!
He has led from the front, bowled like a true champion, and marshalled the troops like a battle hardened general. He plays the game with intensity and passion and he has managed to instil that in every single member of the squad.
The fact that he has been successful with the ball has helped as the boys in green have rallied around him.
How Afridi performs tomorrow will be key to how successful Pakistan will be.
Very few (the eternal optimists like me) expected Pakistan to get this far, and they have only managed to do so because they feel they have a lot of points to prove to the world.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan will take the field with the same intensity as they have so far in this tournament. Maybe even more considering its against India. Their most experienced batsmen in Younis Khan, Misbah, and Afridi average more against India than they do in their careers so surely their game will be a notch higher than it has been.
And if Afridi roars early, it will be very hard for India to beat Pakistan.
India, on the other hand, have been driven by very different reasons. Besides the fact that they have one of the strongest batting line ups in the world and one of the shrewdest captains, Sachin Tendulkar has been the driving force behind India's success.
The God of Indian cricket... no, I mean the God of cricket is playing his last World Cup and it is no secret that he really wants to have a World Cup winning medal on his wall before he hangs up his boots.
Sachin has given so much to Indian cricket, that it is only fair that the men in Blue give their best to give Sachin the only thing that has been missing from his awesome career. Yuvraj even mentioned that his motivating force for this World Cup was a "special person". Undoubtedly that is Sachin.
The fact that the World Cup final will be played in Mumbai in front of Sachin's home crowd, makes the stage all the more bigger, and this semi final all the more important!
As most people know, I am a huge Sachin fan, and as a pure cricket fan I would love to see Sachin score his 100th international century in front of his home crowd and lead India to a World Cup victory in probably his last ever ODI.
He is a true star and he deserves it and India will be driven to make Sachin's dream come true, which is what will make it all the more tougher for Pakistan.
SHOAIB AKHTAR SHOULD PLAY
Shoaib Akhtar has at most two international games left to play in his career. Not that that is a reason for why he should take the field against India, but that is a major reason behind why he will give it his all.
And Shoaib Akhtar's all is a lot to send shivers down the Indian batsmen on a Mohali pitch that is probably the bounciest Indian pitch there is.
Mohali is being touted as a pitch that will favour the faster bowlers and one that will not be that helpful for spinners. Considering this, I think it is imperative that Shoaib Akhtar plays.
The fact that it will be his last ever match against India, will make him play out of his skin, and I believe he can have a huge impact on the game if given the chance.
News is that he will not play, but I really think that Afridi should pencil him down on the team sheet and mention it at the toss.
SO WHO WILL WIN?
I've said it before and I'll say it again - this is the best chance either team has to win a World Cup.
India has never had a stronger ODI team than they have had since MS Dhoni took over.
As for Pakistan, Afridi is the only captain that can make the players rise above all expectations and perform like a unit. He has done it year after year in domestic cricket leading several Karachi sides to finals and wins in various tournaments.
Those who have followed Pakistan's domestic cricket know what I'm talking about, and I am so damn pleased that the world is witnessing that now through Pakistan's charge at the World Cup.
I would love to see Sachin's dream come true, but what I would love to see more is Shahid Afridi lifting the World Cup trophy on Saturday!
Yes that is my heart speaking, but then when it comes to Pakistan vs India, it can only be thought of with the heart. The mind goes numb, the diplomats inside everyone take a hike, and emotions get the better of everyone. Me included.
People can say as much as they want that "it is just a game of cricket", but we all know that it is not just that. It is so much more than just a game.
Even moreso when it is a World Cup semi final.
Most of the fans from either side are saying "doesn't matter if you lose the final, don't lose this match".
Hell with that man! Don't lose this or the final... Go for Gold Greens!!