India meets Pakistan for the first time in a semi-final of a World Cup. The hard-core neighbouring rivals lock horns once again in a World Cup match, this time, it will be played out at Mohali.
There could only be one better stage for this match-up, in the finals. But, given the situation, we have a semifinals at our hands. And it's between the two teams that more than half the cricketing world is going to be watching with pumped up following. I am pretty sure, the production rate of the two countries is going to reach an all-time low. Holidays would be declared in many cities. Prayers will be more frequent. Every single V channel will carry the scoreline. Every single TV will tune in to the game. People will throng the streets in-front of that barber's shop to watch the game.
It is not just any game, it is a game to buy a berth in the Finals of a world cup. While India hasn't won it in nearly 3 decades, Pakistan hasn't in 2, in-spite of both teams once making it to the finals since, and being humiliated in both those finals, by a common winner- Australia.
Ironically, Australia is out of this world cup, thanks to the two teams I've been talking about. While Australia had no clue to Pakistan's bowling, Australia had no clue about India's batting. The loss to Pakistan meant that Pakistan top the group and Aus slip to 3rd place. After India beat WI at Chennai, India set its date with Australia at Motera. And India beat Australia with some beautiful all-round display.
The verdict - it's INDIA vs PAKISTAN.
The Indian cricket team has had to undergo the wrath of numerous bandwagon "fans" who are ready to drink the blood of the Indian cricketers if they lose a game, and are ready to swear the dirtiest words at them for a loss, howsoever close it may have been. But they call themselves "fans" of the team. Yeah, they become fans the very second India wins a game. Team India, led by the coolest captain India has ever had, has managed to keep the fickle emotions of the public aside and concentrated on the things at hand, and when it was needed the most, he has led the team to sanity, to victory, to a place in the semi-final (thus far).
Pakistani cricket team has had to keep their own faith, manage to keep the faith of the board, and woo the fans to continue to keep their faith in the team. Over the past two years or so, this team has gone through what-nots on and off the field! Every loss has been scrutinized as a potential "match-fixing". There have been incidences like Akmal's show in Sydney, Aamer-Asif-Butt episode, the Afridi's "hunger for the ball" in Australia etc. The PCB has had its own issues with the team. Senior players were in and out of the squad. But what has happened in-between all that, is the slow rise of a thick unit, a close unit which knew what one wanted and what one had in themselves. The captaincy debate was mutually solved, and a love for the game was generated. Fans who have lived with the team's luck know what I'm talking about.
Cometh the world cup, and the Pakistani team has shrugged off the "dark horse" tag and wore the "contenders" tag. Afridi is the leading wicket taker in the tournament, ahead by a country mile over the rest of the pack. Gul has become menacing, Rehman and Ajmal have been wisely used. Kamran's batting has been a cover for his poor keeping. Misbah and Younis are the middle order main-stays. Hafeez finds his touch in the middle order. Umar Akmal - Razzak - Afridi trio is still sounding fear in the opponents.
Indian batting is as big as it sounds like. Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj have all had atleast one resounding half-century. Yuvraj's form has been prolific with both the bat and the ball. Raina's entry was excellent in the QF clash, and MSD has been brilliant with the captaincy and some great keeping, though not at best with the bat. Not much has been the need for him to do that either. Zak, Bhajji and Ravi Ashwin have been brilliant with the ball. Munaf has been industrious.
Both teams in prime form, there couldn't have been a better time for a semi-final clash between the two sides. the Prime Ministers from both the nations will be present to witness the game in the best cricket stadium & pitch in India.
I will love to see India win this game. But, I will not be saddened if Pakistan wins the game either. I love both the teams, I will continue to love them.
I just pray that the team which wins this game goes on to win the finals too.
It's pride at stake, but it will be filled with love.
Aman Ki Asha