Kolkata: So it’s settled. After days of intense and nail-biting action, it all boils down to the final, where arch-rivals and Asian cricketing giants- India and Pakistan are set to go toe-to-toe arguably, in what can be called as the biggest match of the year.
This is a match, which cricket fans all over the world wait for. This is a match which raises the bar and pushes the players to go that extra mile and put in their best effort, to come out victorious. Intensity and the adrenaline rush are at it’s peak in such contests, from which heroes are made and innumerable memories are created.
An India-Pakistan clash in any format and in any tournament, grabs a lot of eyeballs and generates a lot of hype. These automatically get doubled when everything is at stake, in the occasion of a final.
The same thing happened ten years ago when these two Asian rivals clashed in the finals of the inaugural World T20 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Both sides were in good form, had big names in their ranks and were looking good to go the distance and script history.
It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s first assignment as the skipper of the Indian team. India went into the match with Yusuf Pathan, who opened the innings alongside Gautam Gambhir. The left-hander from Delhi anchored the Indian innings after they batted first. With wickets falling all over, and big names like Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni dismissed cheaply, Gambhir’s fightback was the standout performance as he clobbered the Pakistani bowlers en route to his 75 crucial runs which took the Indians to 157/5 in their 20 overs.
Pakistan, in response lost wickets right from the start. Opener Imran Nazir, who was looking dangerous was sent back after Robin Uthappa ran him out. After that, there was a batting collapse but Misbah Ul-Haq was firm at the other end, keeping Pakistan still in the contest.
However, an inspired bowling effort by Joginder Sharma, in the last year over sealed a win for India by just five runs. Cricket fans would never forget that audacious paddle-scoop from Misbah and later Sreesanth taking a good catch under pressure to kick off the celebrations in the Indian camp.
Since then, ten years have passed by and a lot of things have changed. The Indian team has evolved into one invincible side, which has become nearly unbeatable in all the formats in the recent times.
Virat Kohli, who has taken up the reins of the team after Dhoni stepped down from the captaincy has done a commendable job till now. As a matter of fact, he has led from the front becoming the number one ranked ODI batsman and also the fastest to reach to 8000 runs. The fielding has been great with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja around and the bowling too has improved a lot courtesy a solid pace and spin attack.
Things are however quite different for Pakistan. Stalwarts like Misbah, Younis and limited overs specialist Shahid Afridi have all called it a day and the current team although talented, but lacks experience.
Four players from India- Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik and two from Pakistan- Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez are still a part of their teams who are going to travel to The Oval for the final clash of this year’s Champions Trophy.
Undoubtedly, the Indian team would walk into the game with the tag of the favourites, courtesy their strong performance barring that odd game against Sri Lanka, but the Pakistanis have put up spirited performances of late that has brought them this far.
Speculations suggest that it is going to be a battle of the equals but will Virat Kohli get the silver in his very first ICC tournament as the skipper? Or will Sarfaraz Ahmed and his men pull off a dramatic win?
No matter what the outcome turns out to be, it’s going to be one cracker of a contest that is going to stay etched in our minds forever. The Oval awaits the entertainment.