There are no dead games in Indo-Pak cricket. For both sides, there is a lot at stake. Pakistan need to end a successful tour on a winning note whereas for India, today’s ODI is an opportunity to end the series on a high.
A win for India on Sunday will offer them a chance to look ahead to the England series positively. I expect Pakistan to play the same team that has done brilliantly during the series. I hope Mahendra Singh Dhoni recovers in time for the game. Dhoni is not just the captain, he is also the side’s batting mainstay in one-day cricket. I think he will be missed sorely if he doesn’t make it. Dinesh Karthik, his replacement, is a very handy guy to have in the side and I know he has scored runs in first-class cricket, but India is not the same without Dhoni in the mix.
In the last game at Kolkata, India did well in terms of bowling and fielding. They pulled things back brilliantly at the Eden Gardens and I thought 250 was an obtainable target. But the batsmen just could not score. To lose by 85 runs is huge in one-day cricket and it appeared that they were lost for ideas when the ball was stopping and coming on to the bat. India had hoped for the dew to set in to disarm the Pakistan bowlers, but even that did not happen.
However, this is not the time to press the panic button. The England series starts soon and everybody needs to be patient.
Stick with MSD
A change in captaincy is not an option. Dhoni is the man to lead for India in all formats. If my opinion counts in India, I would urge the selectors to stick with Dhoni. India’s biggest worry is the form of their two most experienced batsmen - Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. They average 40 plus as openers, are experienced and have provided a lot of good starts. But both appear to be out of touch and lack runs to back their case.
Yet, you need to stick with both Viru and Gauti. The selectors should talk to them and motivate them. Their experience will be very handy in the series against England who have a good bowling attack. For Pakistan, everything is going right. The fielding has been superb. The opening partnership was tremendous. To see Nasir Jamshed grow in stature is tremendous. What can I say about the bowling? It’s simply top-class. Ajmal was as usual excellent, Umar Gul showed his experience and in the spin department Hafeez and Malik weighed in well.
Before the series, I picked India as favourites. But I am happy to be proved wrong. I had backed India because they had played international cricket for about a month and a half. Pakistan on the other hand came into this series with just one first-class tournament and a domestic Twenty20 event.
Pakistan has shown more guts, have planned better for the series and the results are showing on the field.