Famous rivalry resumes after five-year break
Match factsDecember 25, 2012
Start time 1900 (1330 GMT)
Big PictureJust the plain fact that this tour is actually happening is a gargantuan achievement for the Pakistan Cricket Board and its chairman Zaka Ashraf. How many diplomatic and political channels must have been traversed, how many meetings arranged and attended, how many people cajoled and persuaded, and how many prayers said in the hope that nothing goes wrong at the last moment. Well, Pakistan are finally here, on Indian soil, for their first bilateral tour in five years. It does not matter that it is apologetically short, it does not matter that it is barely squeezed between the two legs of England's India visit. Thank heavens to Christmas then, for ensuring a gap existed in the first place for the two Twenty20 internationals and three ODIs to be sneaked in.
The rivalry needs no introduction. In the earlier part of the previous decade, the historic Indian tour of Pakistan in 2003-04 - after another five-year break in ties - heralded a surfeit of bilateral series to the extent the rivalry began to feel a bit jaded. Since 2007, or more pertinently, since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, fans have had to rely on crumbs - a Champions Trophy game in 2009, a couple of Asia Cup matches, a World Cup semi-final in 2011, and a World Twenty20 clash in 2012.
MS Dhoni might say it is just another series but it isn't. Privately for the players, and openly for the fans, India v Pakistan will always be a coming together of shared history, culture, language, fear, hopes, love, hatred. India v Pakistan will always convert a neutral venue into a sea of flags of the two countries. India v Pakistan will always do strange things to players; it will drain flair out of those who have it, and it will inject flair into those who haven't had it till then, and won't have it thereafter. India v Pakistan will always make temporary fans out of people who run away from cricket otherwise.
Too much cricket? Underperforming Indian team? No Sachin Tendulkar? All valid concerns and worries. But come the first ball in Bangalore on Tuesday evening, few will be able to resist watching.
Form guide (Completed games, most recent first)India LWWWL
In the spotlightThe last time these sides met, in the World Twenty20 in Colombo, a hesitant Mohammad Hafeez set the stage for a dull performance from Pakistan. The captain, having chosen to bat, made a 28-ball 15, defending and defending without intent. Hafeez's approach continued when Pakistan fielded, diffidence replacing his usual pro-active, snappy self. It had to be the pressure of an India-Pakistan game, for in their next match against Australia, Pakistan were back to playing aggressive, stirring cricket. How will Hafeez cope this time?
Virat Kohli is one young Indian batsman many Pakistani fans admire and despise in equal measure. The man is brash, but he gets the runs. He swears, but he is dependable. He's played a couple of match-winning innings against them already, including the outstanding 183 in the Asia Cup earlier this year in Dhaka.
Stats and Trivia
- This will be the first T20 to be played between the two sides in India.
- Pakistan have played four bilateral limited-overs series in India, and have won two.
"We want him to stay at the peak. We don't want to put too much pressure on him. At the same time, other bowlers also have to take wickets to give confidence to him."
Mohammad Hafeez on Saeed Ajmal
"T20 is slightly different. You have to be a bit unorthodox and try a few different things. It is different from the longer format. So I think a few games will give us time to get into the groove."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo