Chennai, Dec 29 : 'Who is the favourite? India, Pakistan or the Weather God?' This is the conundrum a the curtain goes up on the renewed bilateral crikcet series between the two 'politcally bickering' South Asian neighbours with the first of the three-match ODI series at the historic Chepauk nee M A Chidambaram Stadium here tommorow.
As the two teams reach the venue on even keel, with India drawing the two-match T20 series as the appetiser for the 'Titanic' ODI battles ahead, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association(TNCA), hosting the game, is hoping the rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday, does not play spoil sport. Chennai will be hosting an Indo-Pak sporting battle after 1999 when it hosted a Test Match followed by a game in the limited overs Independence Day Cup match.
One can only hope for a 50-50 chance on a sporting pitch, as the curator indicates though the Sunday crowd will be missing the God of Cricket, Batting Legend Sachin Tendulkar, who had scored a fine Test Century here in the January 1999 game. But, as has been the experience in recent years, the Chepauk pitch is also expected to aid spin and the unpredictable bounce could also take the visting batsmen by surprise.
The uneven bounce was 'big' during the 2012 edition of T20 IPL games.As cricket fans, gathered at the stadium looking for a ticket, vouch for it, an India-Pak Game is always special emotionally apart from display of cricketing skills between the two of the finest teams. It will be a full house even if three of the stands on the Western side of the ground are not opened up with the Public Works Department(PWD) not yet giving the clearance as reports receveived last said. A talented Pakistan oozing with a variety of pace bowling skills, off-spin wizard Saeed Ajmal matching wits with his Indian counterpart R Ashwin or leggie Amit Mishra may be some of the game's high points.
Yuvraj who has been clicking with the ball is expected to perform the role of left arm tweaker on the face of it for India. Ajmal said he had developed new deliveries to take on the powerful Indian batting. But it is the Pakistan pace battery spearheaded by the talented Umar Gul and his left arm counterparts Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz and Haris Sohail who will be the visitors' 'missile power' if the windy conditions back them up.As for batting, 'fireworks' would be expected from Virender Sehwag, current star in the side Virat Kohli Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane and Yuvraj Singh besides under pressure Captain M S Dhoni.
Yuvraj has come back into the ODI squad after his last outing in this format in the final of the World Cup last April against Sri Lanka in Mumbai. Rahane, who has come in place of Sachin Tendulkar and Bengal pacer Shami Ahmed will be the new face in the pace pack. The visitors' batting attractions would be skipper Misba-ul-Haq, the experienced Younis Khan, Kamran Akmal- also the wicket keeper-Mohammed Afeez-all rounder. India and Pakistan have played 121 ODIs so far, including 27 at home, an equal number in Pakistan and 67 on neutral venues.The new bilateral series between the two traditional rivals comes after the previous edition in 2007. The cricketing ties had to be suspended following the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
The teams: Pakistan (from): Misba-ul-Haq)Capt), Answar Ali, azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imran Farhat, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Mohammed Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan, Zulfiqar Babar.
India (frim): M S dhoni(Capt), Virendra Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvrak Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvnehwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra, Ashok Dinda.