LONDON: How does one brace for madness? Is it possible to prepare for chaos? A day before it plays host to 25,000 screaming hordes rooting either for India or Pakistan, a day before it loses its very identity for a while, the Oval seemed an ocean of calm.
Wish Team India best of luck
Workers meticulously went about their preparations. Security drills were run through, and then run through again. Volunteers even rehearsed signals for traffic diversions. And the cricketers went through their paces with religious zeal, clenching their jaws each time the magnitude of the game threatened to creep up at the back of the mind.
One of the most unpredictable sides in world sport, Pakistan were the lowest-ranked side going into the tournament and produced a shambolic performance in their heavy opening defeat by India. As they have done many times before, however, Pakistan suddenly found their form with wins over top-ranked South Africa and Sri Lanka before delivering an outstanding all-round display to stun previously unbeaten hosts England in the semi-finals.
India suffered a shock loss to Sri Lanka in the group stage before overwhelming Bangladesh in the semis and their captain Virat Kohli has been impressed by Pakistan’s resurgence. “The turnaround has been magnificent,” Kohli said. “Obviously, if you reach the finals you have to play some good cricket and credit to them, they’ve turned around things for themselves really well. The belief just showed on the field the way they played together as a team and regardless of who you play in the finals, it’s always going to be challenging because once you start thinking that it’s a big game, then your mindset changes.”
Except no one can predict the mind, and how it will react in times of trouble. Just like no one can predict Team Pakistan, and how it will play in a game against India. On the face of it, Pakistan have over-reached in reaching London. They just about scraped through into the tournament as the bottom-ranked team, but magically transmogrified into giant-killers against England in the semis. But that’s Pakistan for you. Somehow, they seem to evade analysis, and this is Pakistan’s greatest strength. In key games, they can function bigger than the sum of their parts. This is what makes them dangerous.
CONDITIONS: Another batting paradise is expected and will help the batsmen play their shots on the up. The weather is expected to be clear and there should be no rain-induced interruptions. But then, one never knows with the English weather and there could be a couple of rain interruptions.
TEAMS: India Squad (From): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
Pakistan Squad(From): Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Imad Wasim, Rumman Raees, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Haris Sohail, Fahim Ashraf, Ahmed Shehzad