I can only imagine the tension in India, where the media has hyped this game up new levels. It really does look like a fantastic semi-final, and a treat for fans on both sides. Here in the UK, the Indians and Pakistanis are treating today's match as a final and it's as if they don't care what happens in the actual final, as long as their team beats the other in Mohali.
It will no doubt be difficult on the players. They won't be able to block out what people are saying and writing because this isn't just another one-day international. Even if the captains and players say it's just another match, we all know it is so much more than that.
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The pressure is immense on each of the players on either side. How they combat that and deal with the expectations will be crucial. The stakes are very high and no doubt there will be some frayed nerves in the Indian and Pakistani camps.
India look the favourites because of their strong batting line-up. But if Pakistan have one of their fantastic days, they can come up trumps. They just need to get all the pieces in order. This just adds to the explosiveness of this semi-final.
Pakistan have been carried this far largely on the work of their spinners, Shahid Afridi in particular. But this is India, a team that plays spin very well. It won't be nearly as easy for Pakistan as it was against some other teams. The likes of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli won't play spin with as much respect as others did, so getting wickets early will be key for Pakistan.
In the past a lot of Pakistani teams had two or three very good fast bowlers, but this time is more reliant on spin. In that regard, Umar Gul's role as the leader is massive. He has to strike early. Gul needs to get a wicket in his first three overs to get some momentum. If Pakistan do not get three wickets inside the first 15 overs, it will become very difficult to stop India because the hosts bat very deep.
A lot will rest on Gul's shoulders and even though he has spoken about how having Shoaib Akhtar back in the side will take some pressure off his shoulders, I don't believe Pakistan should pick Shoaib. There's no room for him in the team. They should stick to the same team that won them the last few matches. Momentum and continuity are important in such situations.
Mohali is a rare Indian surface that assists the fast bowlers with bounce and some seam movement, so in that regard Pakistan have a slight edge because of Gul. Pakistan have a better bowling side than India and if they get it together, then India's home advantage goes out the window. If Pakistan have one of their bad days, however, India will walk all over them.
I've been impressed with the latest Pakistan opening combination of Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal. The pair has got it together decently, especially Hafeez. He has, of late, been able to stabilize the top order and give confidence to the middle order. Hafeez and Akmal can build the innings, which is good for Pakistan. What Pakistan would really need now is runs from Afridi.
So far in the tournament his inability to contribute with the bat hasn't been felt so much, but against India he will have to fire considering he's a big-match player and has played some aggressive knocks against them before. Afridi cannot afford to come out swinging against India. As a batsman, he has to step up today.
In such a high-pressure scenario, leadership becomes key and India and Pakistan have contrasting leaders. Afridi and MS Dhoni are two very different captains. Afridi is very emotional. He always runs in and engages his bowlers, talking to them and bucking them up.
He's a very involved captain, but sometimes he overdoes it. He's always in his bowlers' ears and as a bowler that can get annoying, believe me. Sometimes you need to trust your bowler and let him do his job. Afridi needs to relax.
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Dhoni is a very relaxed captain, not overly emotional like Afridi. He is always cool, even though he understands the game very well. However, I feel he is at times too relaxed. He doesn't attack enough and often allows easy runs by having too many fielders in the deep.
Afridi and Dhoni could swap a bit of each other's characteristics, which won't be a bad idea. Overall, I would prefer Dhoni the captain. He gives his bowlers breathing space and doesn't get on top of them like Afridi does.
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