Final Match Preview for the T20 Word Cup 2007 by Abdul Habib 24th September 2007 It began as whispers in secluded corners by seemingly normal fans, then it started to be mentioned aloud but only in joke form and finally people began to talk about it as a serious possibility. The whispering became shouting and by the time the semi-finals arrived it seemed as though the world had been turned upside down. Indian fans were publicly declaring their support for Pakistan against New Zealand and Pakistani fans were cheering on India to beat Australia. Non-partisan cricket supporters must’ve been rubbing their eyes in bewilderment, wondering what fiendish alignment of the constellations could result in such uncharacteristic dementia. Was Armageddon around the corner, had we been too quick to dismiss that crazy looking man with the sandwich board predicting that the ‘End of the World was Nigh’ Well close but not quite. The real reason behind this madness was the mouthwatering prospect of a Pakistan v India World Cup final. Fans of both countries were putting on false smiles and empty bravado whilst declaring how badly they wanted to see both teams compete against each other in the final. However that nervous twitch of the eye or that smile that didn’t quite look right gave away the jitters and apprehension that were being expertly suppressed under a veneer of deceptive confidence. There’s no doubt that the fans were genuinely excited about the possibility of a Pakistan v India final but more than that, in a far deeper place they were terrified of the result. A loss in an event of such magnitude would be unbearable, the hurt would last for much longer than Miandad’s last ball six or Waqar being mauled in the 96 WC. So secretly the fans of both teams quite rightly felt that avoiding such a confrontation would be the best course of action. However destiny, kismet and inevitability conspired with each other and decided that since this combination of events had to happen at some time, why not now? Pakistan cruised through against New Zealand and India won a hard fought victory against the Australians to set-up a mouthwatering confrontation between these two behemoths of the game. The immovable object finally meets the irresistible force, Pakistan v India was now a reality! But who will falter? Who will break? Who will lose their nerve? And most importantly of all who will choke? Pakistan’s route to the final has (as usual) been full of incident and controversy. Pakistan’s superstar bowling duo started off the tournament by getting into a bit of handbags with each other, which meant that one of them was sent home in disgrace. Then Afridi and Akhtar got into an intercontinental slanging match using the media to pass their messages of disdain to each other. But despite all the public airing of dirty laundry, the absence of Akhtar has led to a tight-knit unit which has consistently taken the fight to the opposition. In T20 Pakistan’s strength has been it’s bowling, they have yet to concede a total over 164 against any team in any T20 match. On average the Pakistani bowlers only concede around 150-ish runs and that’s a very defendable total. The secret to Pakistan’s bowling success is that they have so many genuine bowling options to choose from. In the semi-final Pakistan had the choice of 7 regular T20 bowlers Asif, Gul, Tanvir, Afridi, Hafeez, Malik and Fawad. With riches like those it’s hard for the opposition to target any specific bowler because all the Pakistani bowlers are both wicket takers and hard to score off. India on the other hand have been relying on their batting to chase down whatever total their bowlers have conceded or to bludgeon unreachable totals so that their bowlers will have something massive to bowl at. Yuvraj has been in phenomenal form and seems to be hitting sixes at will, if he can continue his good form into the final then the Pakistani bowlers will have their work cut out. Yuvraj has had more than able support from Uthappa, Dhoni and Sehwag so even if he fails in the final. India will still be confident of piling on a mountain of runs. But for my money the real battle will be between India’s bowling attack and Pakistan’s often brittle batting line-up. If the Indian bowlers can restrict the Pakistanis to 160 or under then the Pakistani bowlers will have a real fight on their hands to win the cup. This match will be a real test for Pakistan’s new big 3 in the batting stakes. Malik, Misbah and YK will need to lead with the bat and hope the rest of the batsmen follow. No India v Pakistan encounter would be complete without a cameo of some sort from Sahibzada Shahid Khan Afridi. T20 was touted to be tailor-made for Afridi, he was supposed to massacre world bowlers and leave them all in a big heap in the middle of the pitch but Afridi’s bat has been unusually shy and retiring. Instead he’s let his bowling and fielding do the talking but can even Afridi resist an occasion as huge as this? Has he been saving something special to unleash in this match? Will he do something so genocidal with his bat that it’ll make the Kanpur Killings look like a minor massacre? Only time will tell. In all likelihood this match will be a damp squib with one team crushing the other but we can hope for an even contest cant we? The final word will be with Lady Luck, who will she favour? Whose side will she be on? Up until now she’s been firmly in India’s corner granting them back to back wins against two teams that were supposed to crush India like a bug (in Saffie conditions). Will she continue her allegiance into the final or will the law of averages ensure that Pakistan finally claim that elusive World Cup victory against India? Tune in to find out! Good luck to both sides may the best XI Pakistanis win!!