ICC World Twenty20: Golden chance for Pakistan to humiliate India
Humiliation is a word that should be used with great caution in sports. Defeats, speaking logically, should not be humiliating. Winning and losing games, matches and tournaments come with the territory for all athletes. They learn to cope with it, move on and bounce back.Humiliation in sports comes with cheating, under-performing intentionally in exchange for rewards and the lack of perseverance. Fans bask in the glory of their heroes and they sulk in the agony of their players. A mere defeat to a better opponent cannot be humiliation.But logic can go flying out the window once two sworn enemies take the field at one of the world’s most iconic stadiums for a tournament that had India’s name written all over it even before the first ball had been bowled in anger. (India-Pakistan game will be toughest moments in Dhoni’s career: Steve Waugh)When India face Pakistan in a must-win ICC World Twenty20 match tomorrow at the Eden Gardens, plenty will be at stake. Most importantly, India need to win to stay alive in the tournament after their shock (not humiliating) defeat against New Zealand. Then, India have the burden of records and history to look after – they have never lost to Pakistan in World Cups and World T20s. (Clamour for India-Pakistan match tickets)India have a far superior record in head-to-head ties against Pakistan in T20 cricket. Losing at the Eden tomorrow, could ruin everything. Worse, they will face relegation in the group stages and that would be very, very difficult to digest for fans and players alike. India knocked out of the World T20 in their home this early? That’s horror! India knocked out that early by Pakistan? Nightmare!advertisementYou could get away with a nightmare, wake up the next morning and look forward to the next game. But it’s not that simple here. It’s India vs Pakistan and these contests, though thoroughly fascinating, come with their own riders. (Virat Kohli will be key to India’s success: Steve Waugh )Look at what happened in the lead-up to the World T20. Pakistan orchestrated terror attacks on Pathankot. Families of martyrs and ex-servicemen vehemently protested the India-Pakistan game originally scheduled to be played in the hill town of Dharamsala. Politicians stepped in to gain maximum mileage and one group won.Despite all assurances from India, Pakistan got their way and had the marquee clash shifted out of Himachal Pradesh to the warmer climes of West Bengal. There they were welcomed with words of kindness and a security layer so tight that you would be forgiven for assuming that a Head of State was visiting instead of a cricket team that fans only want to adore and love. (Pakistan start favourites against under-pressure India, says Gavaskar) It did not end there. Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi played a masterstroke by attempting to get the Eden crowd on his side. That was met with sharp criticism back home. Javed Miandad said Afridi and his ilk should be ashamed of themselves.And then, India went and lost their opening encounter against New Zealand on a raging turner. Their net run rate is scarily poor. They HAVE to beat Pakistan not just for pride but for life in this World T20. A defeat could be curtains on the hosts.India had hosted the World Cup in 1987 and they reached the semifinals. They hosted the World Cup again in 1996 and yet reached the semis. India, co-hosts in 2011, finally won the World Cup at home, becoming the first team to do so. Surely, they cannot be knocked out. Not by Pakistan.Pakistan had made a bit of spectacle of themselves by delaying their team’s departure for India even after the game had been moved out of Dharamsala. They wanted a public assurance of safety for their players and media! The Indian government said no. Anurag Thakur said Pakistan must stop making excuses, come to India and show how good they are. (Tight security for India-Pakistan match in Kolkata) India had just smashed Pakistan in the Asia Cup. India had dazzled them in the World Cup last year. Was it the fear of defeat that haunted the Pakistanis? That, it now seems, clearly was not the case.Pakistan started with a bang and decimated Bangladesh on a flat pitch a day after the Black Caps stunned India with spin and venom. They are in top gear for the match and many, including Sourav Ganguly, Sunil Gavaskar and Steve Waugh feel that Pakistan have the edge tomorrow because India will be under more pressure.advertisementA defeat tomorrow will be humiliating for India. After all the drama, the country was waiting for Pakistan to finally arrive so that Dhoni’s Devils could hand them a battering they were unlikely to forget in a hurry. (Raina-Malik bromance in spotlight ahead of tense clash)Now, Pakistan go in as favourites at a venue that has happy memories for them.India have been hampered by that defeat but the flat pitch at Eden Gardens could be just to their liking. Their batsmen are far superior and their spinners more adept at containing batsmen on such belters. Besides, Ashish Nerha is a wily old fox, who will be tough to put away and Jasprit Bumrah has shown that he can be as lethal as Lasith Malinga with his sharp, accurate yorkers.But pressure can do funny things and irrespective of what the players say in the build-up, they would be feeling the heat. If Pakistan manage to hold their nerves early, it could be goodbye India, courtesy of Pakistan.