Mother of all cricket matches few hours away

World Cup cricket semi-final Pakistan Vs IndiaMOHALI: The news from Mohali is that it’s been raining here for hours and that Shoaib Akhtar is ‘highly unlikely’ to feature in what is being described as the ‘mother of all matches’.

As security personnel were making a final check at the PCA Stadium ahead of Pakistan’s World Cup semifinal clash against India, a dust storm lashed Mohali and adjoining areas. It was followed by rain and thunderstorm.

Rain is good news for Pakistan. If it does rain enough to wash out the day’s play today, then there is a reserve day — Thursday — when the match can be played. If rain also washes out play on the reserve day, then the rain rule states that, “If following a tie, weather conditions prevent the one over eliminator from being completed, or if the match is a no result, then the team that finished in the higher position in the Group stage shall proceed to the final.”

In that case Pakistan, since they topped Pool A, will progress to Saturday’s final. However, the unseasonal downpour is unlikely to affect today’s match with the meteorological department forecasting a partly cloudy sky to prevail in this region with a little chance of light rain by Wednesday evening.

Tuesday night’s rain could add juice to the Mohali pitch that was earlier expected to be batting friendly. It is expected that it could assist pacers more with all the moisture in it at least for the first hour or so.

Meanwhile, just before the sudden showers, Pakistan had their pre-match meeting over dinner at The Taj in Chandigarh. Though a decision over the possible inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar was delayed till this morning, a well-placed source told The News that it was highly unlikely that the maverick pacer will be included in the playing eleven.

That means Pakistan are likely to take the field against India with an unchanged team. India, too, seem set to retain the same team that helped them conquer Australia in the quarterfinals though team sources have said the management has mulled the possibility of bringing in left-arm pacer Asish Nehra and even allrounder Yusuf Pathan.

Pakistan were in an upbeat mood on Tuesday even though Shahid Afridi, their captain, declared India as the favourites Pakistan have already punched above their weight to march into the World Cup semifinals with an enviable ease and are now looking for a win against the Indians.

At this World Cup, Pakistan have overcome two of the pre-tournament favourties — Sri Lanka and Australia — and they are now looking to scalp the Indians. It’s a gigantic task, but Shahid Afridi is confident his troops can achieve it.

“It’s our dream to win the World Cup and tomorrow we hope to take a big step towards by beating India,” Afridi told The News on Tuesday. Afridi heaped praise on his players, saying that they were itching to take the field for the high-pressure match. “A few of the players are playing really mature cricket especially youngsters like Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq. They have been waiting for this game,” he said.

Afridi and his men will have to tackle a strong Indian batting line-up that is spearheaded by the great Sachin Tendulkar. All eyes will be on the little master, who will be looking for his 100th international hundred. The master blaster has featured in all four of India’s World Cup wins against Pakistan, scoring 54 not out, 31, 45 and 98.
Off the field, India is in a complete frenzy.

In Mohali and the adjoining cities of Chandigarh and Panckhula, it seems everybody is obsessed with the idea of getting hold of a match ticket. The Tricity has become the nerve centre of India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will be flying in to hold talks on the sidelines of the semifinal. Business tycoons and Bollywood starts are bringing their private jets here. All roads, it seems, lead to Mohali.


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