Calcutta/Colombo: For the Indians, there is perhaps no better way to simulate the pressure situations that a World Cup proposes than to play a practice match against fierce rivals Pakistan. The tension, competition, the urge to go beyond the ordinary, the effort to play as a team… A India-Pakistan match has everything.
So on Monday, the Mahendra Singh Dhonis and the Mohammed Hafeezs will hope to absorb every bit of the warm-up tie in order prepare themselves for the grind that is the World T20.
The interest for the Indians will me more since it will be their final practice game before the tournament begins on Tuesday. As far as the Pakistanis are concerned, after Monday's tie they will still have a warm-up game in hand, versus England.
Speaking about the legendary intensity that an Indo-Pak game commands, one can go just as far as March this year, in the Asia Cup, when the arch-rivals last met. That game, an ODI, in Mirpur saw 659 runs being scored. Even more striking is the fact that India had chased down a 330-run target. That too with more than two overs to spare.
The architect of that win was Virat Kohli, smashing a blistering 183 off 148 balls. He was the star then and he is once again one of the most important components of Dhoni's plans.
After an easy outing against Sri Lanka, India would like to keep the winning momentum going.
They would want their batsman to come good against a superior Pakistan bowling unit. That would give them the required confidence for the rest of the tournament.
Though India won comfortably against the hosts in their opening warm-up game, they certainly need to put up a better show with the bat against Pakistan, who boast of quality bowlers like Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul in their ranks.
Injury to opener Gautam Gambhir, who hurt his wrist against Sri Lanka, would be a concern for the Indians but Virender Sehwag along with other top-order batsmen need to redeem themselves against Pakistan following their dismal show with the bat in the first match.
India, in particular, would like Sehwag to fire and get some runs under his belt ahead of the tough battles.
Yuvraj Singh, who made a successful comeback to cricket after recovering from cancer, also needs to fine tune his reflexes before the demanding tournament.
While Suresh Raina would also look to spend some more time at the crease, he showed why he is still rated as one of the great finishers of the game by Dhoni.
And Manoj Tiwary may also get a look in as Rohit Sharma had played the last match.
The Indian bowlers, led by Irfan Pathan, however, looked in good stead in the previous match and they just need to continue their positive run. Pathan continued his fine form and scalped five wickets to guide India to a comfortable 26-run victory over Sri Lanka. The only concern for Dhoni would be the lack of wickets in pace spearhead Zaheer Khan's kitty.
Pakistan, on the other hand have been a bit inconsistent in the run-up to the sporting extravaganza. They won two successive T20 matches against Australia, but their 94-run loss to Michael Clarke's side in the final T20 tie showed that their batsmen are vulnerable against quality bowling.
Pakistan's batting line-up exhibits immaturity, but with the likes of Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi and skipper Mohammed Hafeez in their ranks, they have the firepower to upset any side.
Young Nasir Jamshed has shown tremendous promise with the bat and the game against India would certainly test his temperament.
On the bowling front, Pakistan have a much-settled line-up with off-spinner Ajmal and pacer Gul leading their respective departments. The experience of Razzaq and Afridi with the ball gives Hafeez plenty of options.
Match begins: 2pm
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