After appetising 'starters' featuring the lower-rung teams and warm-up games, the 'main course' of the World Twenty20 begins here on Friday with a high-profile clash between India and Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla International Stadium.
Players of both teams have tried to downplay the encounter that fans all over the world look forward to, but they admit that a match between the traditional rivals is more intense than other games and that it brings out the best in them.
It is being said that it's going to be a clash between India's formidable batting line-up and Pakistan's potent and varied bowling attack. But taking into account all the factors, both teams would start on equal footing as there is little to separate them, except that the history heavily favours India. For instance, both teams won one warm-up game and lost one, going into the 'derby'. Crucially, India won their second game just two days before the Pakistan encounter and that too quite convincingly, against England on Wednesday. M.S. Dhoni's team had earlier lost to Sri Lanka in a close finish.
Pakistan, on the other hand, beat New Zealand with one ball to spare in their first warm-up tie, but lost badly to South Africa as their batting came apart, losing by eight wickets with 36 balls left to be bowled.
However, experts believe that these results wouldn't have much of a bearing when the first ball is bowled at 7.30 pm (Dhaka time) as players would forget the past and concentrate on the job at hand. For India, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina had a good outing against England and the half-centuries that they hammered would give them confidence in a game that the whole of India wants the team to win. Raina particularly looks in good nick as he scored in both warm-up games.
Yuvraj Singh scored in the first game, but interestingly wasn't given a bowl in either match. Still, the batting line-up looks settled, with the only question mark being against Ajinkya Rahane's selection as he failed to score against Sri Lanka and didn't get a chance to bat against England. Although Rahane has played seven T20 Internationals, crucially the last one came in December 2012.
Dhoni said on Thursday that Rahane was being considered, but the manner in which he said that was not convincing. On the bowling front, he admitted it was an area of concern.
India have an enviable record against Pakistan in ICC tournaments, including the first World T20 in 2007 when India beat Pakistan twice on their way to winning the title. But, quite interestingly, the two teams have played only five T20s since 2007, and India have won four of them - a nice, feel-good statistic that Dhoni and his teammates would like to see before the explosive clash.
Rameez expects a battle of nerves
It will be a battle between two equals when India and Pakistan clash in a World T20 match here on Friday, but the team that keeps its nerves would win, says former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja.
While Rameez picked Ravindra Jadeja as key to India's gameplan and Suresh Raina as a match-winner, he said that Yuvraj Singh would have to regain form quickly. "I think it's pretty even stevens. Pakistan's strength obviously is bowling, but after giving away two-three wickets they have the propensity to bounce back also - as a batting unit. And, it's obviously going to be a battle of nerves. That's a given," Rameez told MAIL TODAY.
"Also, Pakistan's form against India in the recent Asia Cup was good, even though that was 50-over format. So, they start this game with a slight advantage." Rameez, 51, is impressed with the way Raina batted in the two warm-up games. "Raina's form is critical and Virat Kohli doesn't seem to fail at all. Raina's form will warm the hearts of the Indian team management.
He can play T20 cricket like anybody else. He is a match-winner as he's got big shots and he can work the singles," the former opener from Lahore said.
"The only question mark is over Yuvraj's form. He didn't look too convincing against England." Rameez said Jadeja would be crucial to captain MS Dhoni's strategy. "If you compare India's bowling to their batting, it appears to be their weak link. And if Jadeja doesn't have a great day with the ball, India will struggle," he said.