Mohali, March 30: It goes without saying that this World Cup, Team India is enjoying the luxury of home advantage, with riotous crowds egging them on, with pulsating cheers meeting every run the batsman take and every wicket the bowlers ensnare, and an atmosphere imbued in palpable national pride.
But the stadiums at which each of India's scheduled encounters in the global event will unfold at, hold a certain significance. No, they are more than just the proverbial lucky charm. They carry a history which favours the Indian side and Mohali is no exception. However, when one looks at India's track record at this ground, it seems that of late, it has been going through a dearth of wins here.
Indeed, India has lost its last four matches at this venue, while winning five previously. Perhaps the momentousness of this upcoming occasion, i.e., the semi-final of the World Cup 2011 and that too against arch rivals Pakistan no less, will help the home team regain its winning touch. But there again it has an old score to settle - it has lost to Pakistan in both the matches that the two sides have squared off in at Mohali!
The first defeat came in April 1999, when Pakistan was ostensibly a superior side, with the likes of Wasim Akram (0/42), Shoaib Akhtar (2/18) and Saqlain Mushtaq (3/49) wreaking havoc. The spearheading trio kept a floundering Indian batting line-up down to 196 in 49.5 overs with only Sourav Ganguly (59) and Robin Singh (42) playing innings of any note (scorecard).
Then after the Pakistani top-order caved in with the score reading 3/34, the middle order came to the fore with Ijaz Ahmed (89) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (63) taking the visitors home with 7 wickets and 42 balls to spare.
The second defeat at the hands of the Pakistanis occured in 2007 and was a far more close affair. Aided by a 99 from Sachin Tendulkar, a supportive 57 from Gautam Gambhir and cameos from Virender Sehwag (25), Yuvraj Singh (34) and Harbhajan Singh (38), India complied a mammoth 321/9 in 50 overs (scorecard).
But the Pakistan reply was stronger than expected with an in-form Younus Khan (117) stringing together partnerships with the top and middle order till finally the visitors snatched victory with one ball and three wickets to spare.
India have had mixed luck against other teams at this venue as well. Against Australia, it has won once, in 1996, and then lost twice to the World Champions, in 2006 and most recently, in 2009. India has also claimed victory once here against South Africa (1993), Bangladesh (1998), Zimbabwe (2003) and Sri Lanka (2005).
So hopefully, India will be able to beat the odds and come out victorious against the mighty Pakistanis when it takes them on at this ground on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Mohali's stadium may not be as lucky for India as other venues across the country, but it is believed to support batting and a bit of seam, which with our batsmen and paceman Zaheer Khan in the form that they are in, may serve India in good stead. A myriad Indian fans is hoping that is exactly what happens...