An India-Pakistan tie on neutral soil is often an engaging prospect. There is support for both teams and perhaps a different sort of frisson to things. Despite Pakistan’s elimination and India’s progress, both captains agreed that Saturday’s game at Edgbaston still mattered more than usual.
“All over the world, it is the Indian and Pakistan supporters that follow the game the most, even in places where cricket is not played. They are so involved; that’s why this game is so special,” said the Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq. “In Birmingham, there are lots of Indians and Pakistanis; in the whole of the UK even. There will be a great atmosphere on Saturday; you just wait and look at the situation.”
The Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni agreed. “India-Pakistan is always a big game; it doesn’t really matter where you are playing,” he said. “If you compare it to the ‘80s or the early ‘90s, it has mellowed down a bit for the good of cricket. There isn’t the same kind of action when it comes to cricketing skills or verbal skills, which I feel is good.
“At the same time, the intensity is still there. I still remember the warm-up game that we played in the 2009 T20 World Cup. It was houseful and we had an equal amount of support. I think it will be houseful again on Saturday.”
Could work both ways
Asked if Pakistan’s exit from the tournament would take the pressure off it, Dhoni felt it could work both ways. “It depends on what they are thinking,” he said. “If it is the ‘let’s go out, be expressive on the field, don’t bother about the result,’ they can be dangerous. But, if the thinking is that ‘this is a game against India, let’s win so we have it as a consolation prize,’ they’ll be in big trouble.”
There was no specific strategy to combat Pakistan’s bowlers, Dhoni said. “Overall, they are a very good bowling side, so we are not looking to change anything. The approach needs to be the same, and we’ll stick to the basics.”