Looking Ahead :- India's Last Shot at Redemption
After India took a strong 2-0 lead, few would have expected Pakistan to bounce back in the Pepsi Cup. But, with a great amount of self-belief exuding in the Pakistani camp, they have trounced India in the remaining three matches and have taken an unassailable lead in this ODI series. This is perhaps the last match these two teams would be playing in this calender year, and with the things falling apart for India and going the neighbourly way, they would surely like to finish this memorable tour on a winning note. The last ODI at Delhi, would also be John Wright's last as the coach of the Indian team, and a win here would be the best parting gift the boys can give to their wonder coach. Cricketfundas.com gives its readers an exclusive preview to the final ODI between India and Pakistan to be played at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium, New Delhi.
Pitch :- Will they ? Wont they ? This was perhaps the situation the DDCA was going through since the last two weeks or so. But, as political compulsions and diplomacy over-ruled their intentions, it was made clear that Delhi would host the ODI. The pitch to be used for the ODI is a virgin one. Going by reports, the bounce would be of a prime concern to the batsman and even history suggests that the Kotla pitch is a low and twin bounced wicket. Going by statistics, India have won 6 of their 10 ODIs, they have played at this venue. However, the last game played here ended with England scraping through by 2 runs. The weather at Delhi these days has been on the hotter side, and the weather would be something these two teams will have to adapt to for the last time in this series.
India :- Having lost three games on the trot, one need not be a rocket scientist to know what the morale of the Men in Blue would be. But this is a situation, where they can show what they are made of. A greater determination and a greater degree of self-belief is all they have to carry to the Kotla if they want to end this series on a positive note. The batting, which was a major factor in the two Indian wins, yet again let the team down on Friday, despite useful contributions by Kaif and Dravid. The contributions of the top order will have to come to the fore, if India do have any intentions of drawing level the series. Apart from the two matches, Sehwag's gone through a mini-slump, and this has hurt India's fortunes. Sehwag has to give the start India have been cashing on and then things will get easier for the rest of the in-form batsmen. If India have failed to win the last two games, it is purely because of their lacklustre bowling. The bowling unit have had three consecutive off-days and the team management will have to get the combination right for this final ODI. Ajit Agarkar may eventually replace the struggling Balaji and give India with a more in-form option. With the screw tightened at one-end, it is a must that the run flow be choked at the other too. What lies ahead of India is a tough ask, of drawing back level against a fluent and flawless Pakistan team. But, if anything, this is one game the boys must give their 200%, as a win could be the appropriate gift they can give their coach, for whom this will be the last game in charge.
Pakistan :- Its been a fairy tale journey for Pakistan, ever since that defeat at Vizag. After taking an unbeatable lead in the series, the visitors might well be looking to win this series outright. And if they manage this feat, history will be in the making, where a side wins a 6 match series after losing the first two games. Its been the Pakistani batting, that has made this unbelievable comeback possible in this series. The opening duo, especially Shahid Afridi looked unstoppable on Kanpur, on his way to a 45-ball ton and Salman Butt providing him with some able support. Pakistan in this series has been riding on some excellent starts they have got courtesy, the openers, which has basically allowed the rather elegant and classy middle order batsmen to play their own game without worrying much about the scoreboard. The Pakistani bowling has immensely improved as the series has progressed. Rana Naved's immaculate accuracy has done many a damage to the Indian batting order and these early wickets have proved to be crucial in the context of the game. But, if this rejuvenated Pakistan team has looked weak anywhere, its been the spinners - with the middle-overs yielding a lot of runs. If they can contain the batsmen during the middle-overs, the game could well be in their control. Complacency and over-confidence is least they can afford in this crucial tie. And if these other external factors are kept under check, nothing can stop Pakistan from returning home with the Pepsi Cup 2005.
The final ODI at Delhi has made headlines for several other reasons too - mainly for the two Heads of the State would be there to witness this game and use this cricket diplomacy as a means to achieve the ultimate end - peace between India and Pakistan.