By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Well there certainly is an opportunity for both the sub-continental giants, Pakistan and India, to erase the bitter memories of the 2007 World Cup staged in the Caribbean where they were knocked out in the first round much to the shock and disappointment of the large number of their supporters back home.
It was a nightmare for both these traditional rivals over there three years ago. Pakistan had to bite the dust after losing to one of the minnows, Ireland, while India had ruined their chances after being floored at the hands of not too fancied Bangladesh.
While the cricket enthusiasts in both the countries were heart-broken following the debacle in the West Indies in the first quarter of 2007 but the turnaround had come only a few months later in the inaugural World Twenty20 staged in South Africa.
Quite remarkably both these outfits managed to force their way into the final of the competition and India clinched the title after edging out Pakistan in the closest of encounters. In fact it was down to the last stroke of the game.
Had Misbah-ul-Haq, who had brought Pakistan back in the contest from nowhere, timed his last stroke properly the trophy would have been lifted by Shoaib Malik, not Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Cricket came alive in both the countries with the unexpected conquest in the shortest version of the game. Soon it became apparent that Pakistan and India would continue dominating the Twenty20 format because of the enormous talent and passion.
Pakistan lived upto the billing in the second edition of the World Twenty20 held in England last year but defending champions India, not surprisingly to say the least, flopped miserably.
As a matter of fact Pakistan exceeded expectations by annexing the title after an uncertain start. Captained by Younis Khan, the team fared well in the later stages to emerge triumphant. It was after 17 years when Pakistan had been crowned as the world champions.
It’s World Twenty20 time again and Pakistan have a new captain in Shahid Afridi as they prepare to defend the title in the Caribbean.
India have the same skipper, Dhoni, who has had mixed luck in World Twenty20 so far and he cannot be expected to take things for granted.
The experts have reckoned that Pakistan and India are the joint favourites to win the trophy in the Caribbean but the unpredictable nature of both the teams will keep their followers on the toes all along once more.
Pakistan may be short of experience but you can never write them off. They have had this reputation of coming good against the heaviest of odds just as they are notorious for throwing it away from position of strength.
India have also been known for their unpredictability but they are more proficient in giving it away against the run of play rather than turning around when cornered. They were among the front-runners to clinch the title in 2007 World Cup where they could not even make it to the Super Eights.
The possibility of another Indo-Pak final could not be ruled out. But it would not come as surprise either if they are unable to progress that far.