Cricket fever is raging in India with top teams sweating it out to seal their place in the semifinals of the World T20. Unfortunately, I am missing out on this very thrilling time, as I am travelling for tennis tournaments in the USA. Even so, I have tried to stay abreast with the frenzy by watching matches on my laptop in between my own tight schedule.
T-20 is probably a format where upsets are the norm rather than an exception. The shorter game gives a bigger opportunity to the weaker teams to topple the applecart of the stronger ones. India started off as the firm favourites, but were brought down to earth in their very first outing. New Zealand came up with a very professional performance on a turning track to jolt the home team out of their comfort zone. England's record chase to beat South Africa in Mumbai was an eye-opener and Chris Gayle's blitzkrieg against England should make it clear that it would need a brave man to predict the outcome of this year's tournament!
I belong to a cricketing household where the game has been a way of life for almost everyone in my immediate and extended family. It was only natural that I followed the game closely since I was a little girl and grew up admiring the likes of Sachin Tendulkar. I have only watched one India-Pakistan match live, and that was in Mohali many years ago before I knew my husband. Shoaib had helped Pakistan beat India on that occasion and I still haven't forgiven him for that!
No doubt, there is a fair bit of friendly rivalry that develops at home every time India plays Pakistan in cricket. But I will have to admit that Shoaib has been inspired by it to some extent that he has maintained an average of around 50 runs per innings in 37 One-Day matches he has played against India, besides a healthy run of scores that he has mustered up in the T-20 encounters. However, in terms of results, I have stayed ahead of him with Indians beating the Pakistanis more often than not—at least after our marriage six years ago!
Coming into this tournament, India has looked like a well-prepared, confident unit. The wins in Australia after a difficult start to the tour earlier in the year and the Asia Cup victory in Bangladesh looked to be ominous signs for the opponents. Especially so while playing on the home pitches on which the Indians have traditionally excelled. But the big loss in the first match against the Kiwis has sent shock waves among the supporters at home even though the significant win over Pakistan on Saturday, thanks to the heroics of Virat Kohli, should go a long way in soothing their ruffled nerves.
It is a fact that a host nation has never won a T-20 World Cup in the history of the game. It still remains to be seen if Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men can win at home and rewrite the record books.