So far 46 matches have been played in this World Cup but, there is one match for which over a billion people are anxious to see, still there are 4 more days to go and it seems like the time has halted and each day is the longest day of the year. Everyone is impatiently waiting for this Mega Event at Mohali. Predictions, forecasts, betting, emotional statements, angry statements, taunting, sarcastic comments, sane and insane suggestions all are flying like kites on a Basant Day. The days are longer than ever, it seems there is no dusk, kids are women are asking when is the India Pakistan match starting? Four more days, ‘oh gosh why so long?’ Such is the anxiety, enthusiasm and excitement that some people are getting insomniac and spending sleepless nights already. Questions are being raised like, will this be a bigger match than the final itself? Of course it is, and this is not just one voice of an individual but, it is one voice of a few hundreds of millions of people echoing together.
What is at stake, money? Definitely not, it is the pride and vanity of two nations that is at stake, these two nations are not just neighbours but, they are friends and foes, they are rivals as well as associates of peace and friendship. The rivalry on the cricket ground may be harsh and fierce yet it brings the people closer to each other. They love to hate each other and hate to love each other, it is a kind of relationship which is hard to find in the political arena or even in the diplomatic channels. It is cricket that bring the people of these two nations together.
The stage is set on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at Mohali and the two teams are already there practicing hard, planning and making strategies on how to tackle each others weaknesses and how to utilize the strengths they have. India has advantage of playing in front of home crowd at their home ground and on paper their batting supremacy is undoubtedly better than Pakistan. Yet, matches are not won on the basis of paper it is the mental strength of the teams that differentiates between a winning team and a losing team. This Pakistan team does not have heroes like Tendulkar the all time cricket legend from India, or even their own past heroes such as Javed Miandad the Pakistan batting legend, yet the team has players who can turn the tables in their favour on their day and it could be their day on March 30th. In terms of bowling Pakistan team has an edge over Indian bowlers in all departments. Besides both teams have good wins under their belt and are confident of beating each other.
Shahid Afridi the Pakistan team captain has so far silenced all his critics by leading from the front and he is the leading wicket taker in this tournament also by far the best captain who is aggressive and positive. The team he is leading does not have any known heroes also Pakistan were underrated before the commencement of the tournament and they have surprised almost everyone by reaching to the semifinals and they are only two steps away from lifting the cup.
What Shahid Afridi needs to do now is to focus on his own batting as well as his own decision making, he should not worry about what Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja are saying? They will not be accountable if Pakistan loses the semifinal against India, the people, media and even the officials will blame him for anything that went wrong. They are all pressurizing him to include Shoaib Akhtar in the team by saying he should be given ONE LAST CHANCE. This is not a charity organization it is a national team and the selection is based on performance and fitness.
It is very clear to everyone that Shoaib is a spent force, he cannot bowl his allotted quota of 10 overs, he is neither mentally nor physically fit. Therefore Shahid Afridi should not pay heed to their blabbering and big mouthing. They had their day when they were captain and they never bothered to pay any attention to anyone’s advise, especially Imran Khan who was a dictator captain. Wasim Akram was and still is morally corrupt and dishonest so why should anyone listen to him now? Ramiz Raja was a mediocre player and on top of that he has become very biased and his suggestions, comments and statements are always jingoists, hence Afridi should not even care to listen to this sinister old man.
He should play Wahab Riaz, rather he should play the same team that beat West Indies in the quarterfinals and Waqar should talk to Riaz about his line and length and sort out the anomalies that he has and 3-4 days should be enough to work out these small niggles that he has, otherwise he is a young strong man and he bowls at a very good speed and has the ability to take wickets. Secondly, against India he would be a new weapon and Tendulkar has the tendency to get out at the bowling of new bowlers, so Riaz has a chance and if he gets Tendulkar’s wicket his morale would be sky high.
Afridi must also think out of the box and must be brave enough to come out and open the innings at Mohali where the wicket is flat and bouncy, it is the right kind of wicket for him to play shots during the first mandatory overs where there is field restrictions and even his miscued shots will go over the top of the infield fielders. Historically, Afridi has scored more runs as an opener and he can do that. Besides, Indian fast bowling is not like the express pace of Shaun Tait and Brett Lee, he also faced the spin bowlers in the earlier stage and Kanpur innings is an example of that. He scored 22 runs of Balaji’s over followed by 23 of Kumble and another 23 of Dinesh Mongia and a couple of sixes and a few fours to frustrate Zaheer Khan who is the most dependable and reliable Indian bowler. Therefore, Afridi should keep this in mind and must not hesitate in opening the innings.
I know that the traditionalists and conservatives will hate this idea and if it backfires they will murder him through the media but, realistically speaking his utility as number 7 or 8 is zero, considering him as an opener is like playing a wild card, yes it is a big gamble but, that should be the plan that they can sacrifice his wicket without taking any pressure if he gets out. If he stays for 15 overs then the match is over. He demoralizes the opposition so much that it becomes impossible for them to lift the game after that carnage. Once again the same slogan is being used here GO AFRIDI GO. And, remember don’t listen to these so-called ex-greats.