BANGALORE: M. Chinnaswamy Stadium has turned into a fortress as India and Pakistan renew their rivalry in the first of the two Twenty20 Internationals here on Tuesday night.
For the organisers, security of players is high on the agenda. More than 5,000 security personnel will maintain a tight vigil in and around the stadium as both teams battle it out hard on the ground.
Since the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, Pakistan are in India for a bilateral series for the first time. The neighbours’ last tour to India was in 2007. A wait of five years is over for the fans. For them, India-Pakistan on a cricket field is more than just a game but players treat is as any other match.
It is tough to pick favourites because the nature of Twenty20 is such that results can swing in any team’s favour in the space of one over.
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez wants to win not only games but Indian hearts. In his first press conference after arrival, said: “We have come here not only to play cricket but also to win your hearts.”
Pakistan’s Australian coach Dav Whatmore described this short tour of two Twenty20 Internationals and three One-day Internationals as ‘special’.
“Well this is a special set of games for us. This is my first experience of a Pakistan-India series, a five-game series. We have played India of course in ICC events but this is my first time [in a bilateral series]. I am looking forward to it personally,” the Sri Lankan-born Whatmore said.
On paper, the outcome could be decided by the spin riches both teams possess. India has to watch out for this format’s best bowler, Saeed Ajmal. The off-spinner can trouble any batsman and he will be key for Pakistan.
Apart from Saeed, Shahid Afridi’s leg-spin is also a major weapon. If Pakistan rely on Saeed-Afridi combination, India will be well served by Yuvraj Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin, though the latter was not at his best against England. Piyush Chawla might also play.
India have plenty of power hitters and one can assure the fans over 35,000 at the stadium of big hits coming their way. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj will be the ones to provide the sparkle with mammoth hits.
Dhoni feels toss is vital in the series with dew around.
“Winning the toss will be crucial because dew may have an impact. If you see both the sides, they are quite same. Their ability to play spinners is quite same. I think it will be nice couple of games,” he said.
Pakistan’s batting will depend on Akmal brothers Umar and Kamran, captain Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed. Afridi’s batting is not the same which was few years back and is more of a bowler these days.
Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir will lead Pakistan’s pace attack. Left-arm paceman Sohail has said that they will try to lessen the burden of spinners. “Against England in Abu Dhabi, the fast bowlers contributed to the efforts of the spinners. Even here, we will try to lighten the load on the spinners,” said Sohail.
The second match of this short series will be played in Ahmedabad on Friday before the teams meet in a three-match One-day International series from Sunday with the opening game in Chennai, followed by Kolkata (Jan 3) and New Delhi (Jan 6).
INDIA: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu.
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Asad Ali, Zulfiqar Babar, Ahmed Shehzad.
Umpires: Vineet Kulkarni and S. Ravi (both India). TV umpire: Chettithody Shamsuddin (India). Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka).—Agencies