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Momentum with Pakistan as they seek to change history against India

September 30, 2012

Match: Pakistan vs India, 20thth Match of ICC World Twenty20. Venue: Premadasa Cricket Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka Date and Time: Sunday, September 30th, 2012. 19:00 PST / 14:00 GMT

Overall Rivalry: The beginnings; Pakistan 0 wins India 2 wins

Weather Report: Partly cloudy with a chance of a thunderstorm and rain. High of 30 Celsius is expected. Winds will range from10 to 15 mph with a 30 percent chance of rain.

22 Yard Report: The wicket seems to be deteriorating with each game played on it and should assist the spinners more as it is used for more games. However, with rain coming into play it could get difficult to grip the ball. Winning the toss and batting first has been preferred here but with thunder storms threatening all day, the captains might contemplate on chasing so they can have a defined target in sight at all times.

Game On: India go into this game with their backs to the wall and are under severe pressure. They have not won a single Super Eights game in the previous two World T20 competitions. Their loss against Australia was their seventh straight loss in this stage of the competition across three tournaments. With their Net Run Rate (NRR) as low as minus 2.51, the match against Pakistan is practically a knockout game for them.

Pakistan are on a high after their thrilling win against South Africa. They topped their group and are still unbeaten in the competition. Everything Hafeez has touched seems to have turned to gold. His own batting has been sensible up the order and his bowling has been tight. The right balance of attack and defence has meant that the opposition has kept losing wickets with the run rate in check. The move to open the bowling with Raza Hasan caught South Africa by surprise and set the tone for the rest of the innings.

The same brilliant decision can easily turn into a disastrous one if it contributes to a loss but as long as Pakistan keep winning, Hafeez’s is captaincy will be hailed and his mistakes will be overlooked. Furthermore, his chances to become captain in other formats will increase. All that Hafeez needs to do is continue to do what he has been doing so far and hope that luck favours his decisions.

On the other hand, Dhoni earlier tried to stick with four bowlers but was criticised for his decision, it was his insistence to continue with the winning formula that made him one of India’s most successful captains ever. In the previous game against Australia he went in with five bowlers which meant that he had to leave exclude the out of form Virender Sehwag from the playing XI. As luck would have it, India slumped to a massive defeat at the hands of the Australians and Dhoni’s selection has been found wanting one more time.

Dhoni is under a lot of pressure for his captaincy and with his own batting not firing at crucial stages, he could soon face some serious consequences from the unforgiving media, fans and ultimately the selectors.

Game Changer: Weather has been a major cause of concern throughout the tournament and will continue to be so. In such circumstances it is possible for the Duckworth Lewis method to come into play. India has already faced problems in their first game as their spinners found it tough to grip the ball and get the revolutions the Pakistani spinners did earlier in the day under dry conditions. Weather could again play a crucial role by tilting the balance in the favour of its beneficiary.

Pre-Game Talk: “When we play India there is lot of pressure because our people always want us to win,” Umar Gul knows the pressures of an India-Pakistan game.

"Regarding why Sehwag (was left out), we had only two options. I don't like to take individual names, I think in such tournaments we should go 'horses for courses'. To exactly justify why a particular player was dropped is difficult," Dhoni explains his decision to drop Sehwag.

Last XI Fielded Indians:  Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan,

Last XI Fielded Pakistanis:  Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat, Raza Hasan, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal.

Possible Changes: Pakistan have a winning combination and are likely to go into this game unchanged. India still don’t have a settled unit, they seem unsure of their best opening batting combination and the basic balance of the team is in a constant state of change. Virender Sehwag is expected to make a comeback into the side which means that Dhoni might have to revert back to a four specialist bowler strategy. One of their spinners might lose their spot.

Final Words: When India and Pakistan play, every match is a do or die game. However, more pressure seems to be on India at this stage. Pakistan have never won a World Cup match against India and while Dhoni’s side will take comfort from that record, Pakistan have a good chance to change it and knock them out of the competition at the same time.