London, June 15 -- When the draw for the ICC Champions Trophy was made there was only one match on the mind of fans, players and organisers, all for different reasons. For fans it offered a chance to test the Orwellian notions of sport and war. For players it is the one match that offers them chance of immortality. For organisers it brings in the moolah.
As it has panned out, the match is what you would theoretically call a dead rubber. But, when India play Pakistan is there such a thing?
With two wins in two matches, India are already assured of a spot in the semis. With two losses in two, Pakistan are already out. All that, of course, will prove only incidental when the two teams square off at Edgbaston on Saturday.
All sold out
Tickets were sold out within 30 minutes of being put online. For those who missed the bus there's the more expensive option of eBay and pre-match scalpers, selling tickets at almost 10 times the face value.
If there were any doubts on the intensity that will be on display on Saturday, they were swiftly erased by the captains. Pakistan skipper Misbah ul-Haq made no bones about it in the pre-match presser. "I think it's still a very important game. Everybody knows that India-Pakistan is always a game most viewers are looking forward to," he said.
The 37-year-old has been brilliant with the bat, averaging 151, but barring opener Nasir Jamshed, who struck a 50, none of the Pakistan batters crossed even 20. They will, however, take confidence from their series win over India at the end of 2012.
A solid pack
MS Dhoni's team, on the other hand, is firing collectively. Rarely have they looked so dominant since their 2011 World Cup triumph. The openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, have provided a solid platform with back-to-back century stands, the first time India has found such stability at the top since 2007. With Virat Kohli, an in-form Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself to follow, they look capable of chasing down any target.
The bowling unit is also looking complete. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has got the new ball to talk even in conditions that have been very un-English. Honeymooner Umesh Yadav, who got married days before the tournament and is the only player travelling with his spouse, has proved expensive but has also provided vital breakthroughs as has Ishant Sharma.
The ace in the pack has been Ravindra Jadeja. He's done it all in the first two matches, playing crucial cameos, picking up wickets at a record pace and proving to be a livewire on the field. Such has been his performance that the absence of Yuvraj Singh, the man of the series in the World Cup and one of India's best ODI players since his debut in this tournament 13 years ago, isn't being felt as much it should've.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.