Mohali, March 30: It is touted to be the "mother of all battles" when India takes on Pakistan in the second semi-final of the World Cup 2011 at Mohali. The hotly anticipated clash between two of the most classic foes in the game has been wrapped up in unprecedented security cover. But even the 3,000 to 4,000 police and security personnel deployed won't be able to guard against the tension that this match is likely to stoke up in the hearts and minds of fans from both sides.
Many experts and members of the cricketing fraternity from India and Pakistan have pleaded with their compatriots to regard this match as just another "game" and not "war". But as a cold war rages between the two governments involved, one wonders if warm sparks will fly when the two nations play each other on cricket's greatest stage or if that frostiness will translate to more intensity on the field...
At the outset, it seems the best batting side in the tournament (i.e. India) will be up against the team with the World Cup's most supreme bowling attack, which in itself serves up a delicious contest. For every half century or century one side dishes out, the other will be aiming to scruff up a wicket or two. Perhaps in between, every shot to the fence or hit over it, will elicit a bouncer or a ripper which beats the bat.
India's top 5 batsmen are collectively averaging around 270 in the Cup! Meanwhile Pakistan's top two bowlers have taken 35 wickets between them at a joint average of just around 12.50 runs conceded per scalp! Those figures alone are guaranteed to warrant some scintillating action when the two sides take the field on a fateful Wednesday, March 30.
India have become accustomed to being given dynamite starts to their innings courtesy Virender Sehwag, who is averaging 42.00, and Sachin Tendulkar, who is just a shade below him at 41.71. Then the men entrusted with the task of taking the innings forward after the foundation has been laid, are also in pretty good form with Gautam Gambhir making around 38.42 runs per match and Virat Kohli notching up 34.00.
But the real juice comes at No. 5 from the willow, as we have all had the pleasure and excitement to witness, of Yuvraj Singh, who is averaging a phenomenal 113.66. With an aggregate of 341, he has superseded even his side's openers. A lot of the onus of reaching a big total or chasing down the same may once again fall on his shoulders and the trend in the Cup so far has shown that he is not one to disappoint.
Meanwhile, in the Pakistan camp, the batting may leave a lot to be desired. After all, the side's best batsmen - Umar Akmal and Misbal-ul-Haq - are averaging only a moderately impressive 42.20 and 38.40, while the next best batter - Younis Khan - has clocked 34.40. But Asad Shafiq has had a good couple of last games, scoring 78 and 46.
Plus, it seems that finally, Pakistan has exorcised the demons at the top of their order with Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez making sweet music together against the Windies in the quarterfinal with an unbroken stand of 113. But Pakistan don't have to worry too much about their batting not standing up to India's own, for the precise reason that their bowling appears to be far superior.
After all, Shahid Afridi has hauled up the largest tally for an individual bowler in the tournament with 21 scalps at a staggeringly low average of 11.19. He has been spearheading the attack along with a very capable Umar Gul, who has 14 wickets to his credit at 14.50.
In comparison, India hasn't been so hot in the bowling department with Zaheer Khan standing out as the lone spearhead with 17 scalps at 16.23, while India's second-most effective bowler has been part-timer Yuvi who had picked up 11 wickets at a rather high average of 24.54.
So, the stats and figures stand up nicely against each other with the two sides strengths and weaknesses plain as day for all to see. Now one will have to watch as to how they translate in the electrifying air and soil of Mohali!