For Pakistan and India, war is actually just cricket by other means

My friend Feisal Naqvi came up with the brilliant observation that is the title of this post. Here's more on one of the most anticipated cricket matches of all time (the Indian prime minister has invited his Pakistani counterpart to attend and he has accepted), from Dileep Premachandran in Dawn:

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 29 08.42 The numbers suggest a Pakistan win. After all, they’ve beaten India 17 of 26 times on Indian soil. They’ve also won the two previous encounters at Mohali, chasing down 321 to win in November 2007. Cricketing logic though suggests an Indian success. By late March, most subcontinent pitches are tired, slow and lifeless. There won’t be much turn and the ball’s unlikely to come on to the bat. In such conditions, the stronger batting side usually wins. In this case, that’s India, with a top seven all capable of run-a-ball hundreds.

But when it comes to such intense rivalries, numbers and logic mean nothing. It’s invariably about which team can keep composure in tight situations. Often, it’s the experienced hands that experience the most tremors. In 1996, Waqar Younis’s final spell and Aamer Sohail’s focus on the verbals cost Pakistan dearly. In 2003, it was one over from Shoaib Akhtar that caused a huge momentum shift India’s way.

Pakistan have enjoyed plenty of success with spin in this competition but against India, it might be wiser to strengthen the pace options. Bringing back Shoaib is a gamble and if the team management is reluctant to, they could do worse than blood Junaid Khan. Mohammad Amir’s dismissal of Tendulkar at the Champions Trophy in 2009 illustrated the value of unleashing a young and hungry player in a big game.

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir certainly won’t treat Afridi’s bowling with the deference that other teams have and if the Indians get away to a flyer, Pakistan cannot afford to unravel as they did in the final stages against New Zealand. If this Indian line- up has shown an Achilles Heel, it’s been in pushing on after fabulous starts.

More here.