WT20: India need top-order to fire in must-win game against Pakistan

Kolkata: India shot themselves in the foot in Nagpur on Tuesday while Pakistan made light of the 'threat' from Asia Cup finalists Bangladesh the next day for an emphatic victory. The contrasting fortunes of the arch-rivals in their respective World T20 openers will appear to have altered equations before Saturday's marquee match at the Eden Gardens.

Virat Kohli. Pic/PTI
Virat Kohli. Pic/PTI

Suddenly, the 'favourites' tag sits uncomfortably on the Men in Blue while Pakistan, unconvincing in the build-up to the tournament, will be filled with belief that they can finally break the jinx and put it across India in a ICC meet.

Before such a highly hyped face-off, and the pressures that it brings, it is essentially mind over matter — and that is where the Indians have the opportunity to come back. Dhoni's men will have been convinced by now that it was not so much New Zealand's spinners that did them in at Nagpur as their own appalling absence of a plan and application during the chase of a modest total on a wicket that demanded a different approach.

If they reason and rationalise, the Indians will get to see that their stature in this matchup hasn't changed much, even if the circumstances have. It's still a contest between a well-established team coming in on the back of strong performances and a largely inexperienced one. A couple of matches doesn't change that on the ground.

Pakistan's strength still lies in their pace trio of Mohammad Aamir, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz but conditions here will greatly reduce their potency, particularly in the face of India's classy top-order. A line-up that has Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni presents a daunting prospect. Indian fans will, of course, be hoping their batting heroes don't suffer from a collective flight of gumption, as they did in Nagpur.

For Pakistan, the pressure really will be on spinners Imad Wasim and Shahid Afridi to deliver in favourable conditions, and it is here that India certainly hold the aces. Skipper Afridi's return to big-hitting form is a key to the contest, but he will be up against a more varied and incisive attack than Bangladesh's. Mohammad Hafeez is among runs and Shoaib Malik has shone in patches but there is always the possibility that the inexperience in the Pakistan line-up will surface under the pressure of the big day.

In the afterglow of recent results, it's up to the Indians to put things in perspective. In their mind.

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