India v Pakistan, 8 June 1999Rajiv Kumar
Forget the points table, net rate figures and all the predictions on who is going through to the semi-finals. All that matters to subcontinental cricket fans today is who will win the India v Pakistan encounter. Even if both these teams had not qualified for the Super Six this match would be contested like a do-or-die encounter. Usually India-Pakistan matches generate tremendous interest and passion. Today's game will be no different but will occur under the backdrop of border tensions between these two neighbours. This has led organizers to increase security measures for the match.
Pakistan just need to win one match to qualify for the semi-finals. But their back-to-back losses to Bangladesh and South Africa must have them worried a little bit. The Pakistan top-order have looked very shaky in the World Cup so far. And Inzamam, despite some good individual performances, seems intent on running out either himself or his partners. But the overall talent and spirit of the Pakistan team can never be underestimated. They will come out with all guns firing against the Indians.
As for India, this World Cup has been a rather strange experience for them. They lost games against South Africa and Zimbabwe, which they should won. In the middle of the league stage, Sachin had to fly home for his father's funeral. Yet they managed to outclass the Sri Lankans and the Kenyans. In the crucial match against England they pulled off a exciting win with the help of some curious lbw decisions. In the first match of the Super Six, the Indians were completely outclassed by the Aussies. Before they knew it they were 17 for four. This roller-coaster World Cup has had many highs and lows for India. Five centuries have been scored but only three matches have been won.
What does the record say? Going by the India-Pakistan one-day encounters this year, Pakistan has a clear advantage. They dominated over a Sachin-less Indian team in both the Pepsi Cup (held in India) and in the Coca Cup (in Sharjah). In general the Indian batsmen have done poorly against Pakistan: Tendulkar has scored less than 10 runs against Pakistan 13 times, Azhar 18 times, Dravid 9 times, Jadeja 10 times and Ganguly thrice!
What the Indians have going for them is the fact that they has always managed to beat the Pakistan when they have played them in World Cup match. This is definitely a major psychological advantage.
Prediction: Too close to call! But watch out for Shoaib trying to break the 100-mile/hour speed record and expect Azhar to make a comeback since this is going to make or break his cricketing future. Serious crowd trouble is a strong possibility.