Mohali: As subcontinent’s two biggest cricket playing nations -- India and Pakistan – gear up for a high-voltage World Cup semi-final clash at Mohali, the level of excitement is at its peak among billions of cricket lovers across the country.
What will add more to this cricket frenzy is the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, who will watch the match as part of ‘cricket diplomacy’ to strengthen the soured bilateral ties.
If reports are to be believed, a host of other dignitaries -- Congress president Sonia Gandhi, general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, several union ministers among other VVIPs -- will watch the match amid unprecedented security cover.
When the two captains walk out for the toss, two estranged nations will virtually come to a standstill with millions glued to the television sets to watch the blockbuster unfold.
As the stage is set for the biggest showdown, skies in Mohali have been cleared up this morning after a thunderstorm followed by light rain yesterday night. Met officials said the skies would remain clear for most of the day.
The potentially explosive clash is the first match between the two neighbouring countries on Indian soil after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai. They have faced each other in four World Cup matches in the past and the Team India has come out victories on all these occasions.
The hosts will look up to Tendulkar and his aggressive opening partner Virender Sehwag to provide a rollicking start to make things easier for the middle-order to take India to a decent total on the PCA stadium track, which is expected to help the seamers to some extent.
Team India has the depth in their batting. Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Raina, who is expected to be retained in the team, have enough potential and aggression required to keep the scoreboard moving.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has so far played like a unit and have gelled quite well despite being plagued by match-fixing scandals and an unending sequence of controversies.
The bowlers are the mainstay of the Pakistan team, which has not received much help from its batsmen since the start of the tournament. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq are the two experienced batsmen though the youngsters have a lot of talent.