India-Pakistan set for an exciting Christmas Day Twenty20 clash
Bangalore, December 24, 2012
Bilateral cricketing ties between India and Pakistan are all set to resume with the first Twenty20 international between the two neighbours at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here tomorrow.
Security has been beefed up for the Christmas Day match that will see the two arch-rivals clash in a bilateral series for the first time since 2007.
Sporting ties between the two countries were snapped after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists.
The last time the two teams clashed on home soil was last year during the World Cup semi-final that India won.
India also won the last encounter between the two countries in the World Twenty20 held this year in Sri Lanka.
Such has been the hype surrounding the series that the first match has been sold out.
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez admitted that his team is not here just to play cricket but win hearts as well.
"We have come here not only to play cricket but also to win your hearts," he said.
Pakistan's coach Dav Whatmore can't wait to experience the thrill of being a part of a high-voltage series between the two countries.
He said the series comprising two T20Is and three One Day Internationals will be "special."
"Well this is a special set of games for us. This is my first experience of a Pakistan-India series, a five-game series. We have played India of course in ICC events but this is my first time (in a bilateral series). I am looking forward to it personally," Whatmore said.
Both the teams heavily rely on spin but dew may make the difference. Pakistan's top spinner Saeed Ajmal has proved himself as a match-winner in the shortest version of the game while leg-spinner Shahid Afridi's leg-spin can also prove a threat for the hosts.
India will also rely on the spin of Yuvraj Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin. India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is likely to go in with the three spinners and Piyush Chawla may play.
Yuvraj made a stunning comeback after being dropped from the Test team following a poor show against England. The batting will revolve around Dhoni, Yuvraj and Suresh Raina.
Dhoni also feels that toss will be the key in the series. "Winning the toss will be crucial because dew may have an impact. If you see both the sides, they are quite same. Their ability to play spinners is quite same. I think it will be nice couple of games," he said.
Pakistan all-rounder Sohail Tanveer, who was the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural season of the IPL, said his team's pacers will try to take the burden of spinners.
"Against England in Abu Dhabi, the fast bowlers contributed to the efforts of the spinners. Even here, we will try to lighten the load on the spinners," said Tanvir.
The second Twenty20 will be played in Ahmedabad (Dec 28) and it will be followed by three ODIs in Chennai (Dec 30), Kolkata (Jan 3) and Delhi (Jan 6).
India: M S Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Asad Ali, Zulfiqar Babar, Ahmed Shehzad.