New Delhi, March 30: Whenever India takes on Pakistan in a cricket match, emotions run high and sentiments flare and this is just the sort of storm of excitement that even the cricket experts have been caught in. They have turned out in force with their opinions and views for nothing can keep them silenced when what is being billed as the "mother of all battles" is in the offing.
"If India out-bowls Pakistan, then India have done it (claimed victory)," says the veteran Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who knows a thing or two about out-bowling India's arch rivals. "And along the same lines, if Pakistan out-bats India, they will win, " added Kumble, recognising that Pakistan's feisty bowling line up is up against an equally formidable Indian batting card.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's World Cup winning skipper Imran Khan thinks that Pakistan's bowling would have been truly insurmountable if the team hadn't lost two of their star bowlers to corruption. "Those two wonderful opening bowlers are out of the equation, perhaps for the right reasons, I am not going to dispute that, "said a rueful Imran. "But I am just imagining Amir and Asif playing in this world cup and thinking what the strength of this team would be".
The other panelists speaking on the show hosted by Rajdeep Sardesdai on a leading news channel, were more inclined to focus attention on the Little Master and the destruction he is expected to unleash in the sem-final against Pakistan."Deep down for Sachin, there is a passion to win something," opines West Indies batting great Viv Richards. "A player with his sort of unblemished record is missing just one thing and that is a trophy in hand, " added Richards giving credence to the fact that Sachin is perhaps the most vital cog in the Indian machinery if the side is to overpower Pakistan.
Former Australian World Cup champion skipper Allan Border agrees with Sir Viv, adding, "He (Sachin) is in a position from where he can taste it (victory in the World Cup)", while a more judicious Anil Kumble extended the discussion by saying, "He will feeling the nerves of the India-Pakistan match. But I believe he is in the right space and even his equation in the team is good. His batting now is a lot more relaxed."
Speaking on another show on another leading news channel, former Indian batsman Arun Lal firmly believed that India had a psychological edge going into the match against their neighbours, "India are the favourites. They are playing good cricket, and I feel the more relaxed the team on the day, the more chance there is of winning.
Going back to Viv Richards, the Caribbean master-classman reserved picking a likely winner from the two sides. "On the day, anything can happen. It's a game of cricket." And highlighting the irony within the Pakistan ranks, Anil Kumble pointed out that Shahid Afridi, who is incidentally the leading wicket-taker in the Cup so far, has "won more matches against India with the bat than with the ball!"
Finally, former Indian cricketer Atul Wasan took exception to a comment made by Afridi in which the Pakistan captain stuck it to Sachin saying that his side would not allow the Little Master to notch up his hotly-anticipated 100th international ton in the World Cup."Afridi was wrong to say that Pakistan will not allow Sachin to make a century. The only way they can do that is by getting him out on 99 (considering the form he is in).
So, the expert views are out and the die is cast for a scintillating game of cricket on Thursday. Many quarters on both sides have urged their compatriots not to regard this match as war, but merely game of cricket. However, when Pakistan plays India, it is never JUST a game!