LONDON // When two tribes converge on Lord's today it will be like, to borrow a phrase, cricket's culture club taking on the crazy gang. England's supporters will take tiffin behind the famous old pavilion, with conversation likely to centre on how the 20-over format pales in comparison to the superior mode, Test cricket. Meanwhile India's fans, typically dressed in the blue of their one-day colours and bearing tricolour stickers on their cheeks, will be vying to see their faces on the big screen.
Every Indian, it seems, wants to be seen at the Twenty20 now. Before they won the first World Twenty20, in South Africa two years ago, India had fought against the onset of the cricket's shortest form. Now it has been adopted with a frenzied zeal. England's cucumber sandwich brigade remain ambivalent. The corporate boxes at Lord's for this tournament have been quiet in the main for the past fortnight.
All except one, that hired by Lalit Modi, the Indian Premier League chairman, which has been full all through the tournament. Sachin Tendulkar, who has a home near the ground, even made an appearance to support India last time out where his teammate Yuvraj Singh posted a half-century against West Indies. "Yuvraj has been our star when it comes to Twenty20 cricket," said Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, who hardly wants adulation for himself.
Yuvraj will be faced with an old acquaintance again today, Stuart Broad, the bowler whom he hit for six sixes in an over two years ago. Broad's Twenty20 travails have continued here. He botched four manageable dismissal chances to give the Netherlands a shock win in the opening game. Now he is in trouble after being warned over his conduct by the ICC for trying to distract South Africa's bastmen while running up to bowl in their defeat on Thursday night.
To make matters worse, India's batsmen will have their attention focused by the fact that defeat will spell the end of their reign as 20-over world champions. Dhoni expects them to thrive under the pressure. "The do-or-die situation really brings the best out of us. We will be under pressure to perform," he said. "That was the same in the last World Cup. Every game after the first one was a do-or-die situation. We played some of the toughest teams and we went right through to the final. It is not like we can't do it again.
"You have to be at your best because some of the other teams have been playing really good cricket. You don't want to take chances." England will start the game as distant second favourites; an odd proposition considering the format evolved in the land of the hosts and the home of cricket. Andy Flower, England's team director, admitted as much this week when he said a lack of experience in the Indian Premier League - the tournament England administrators have battled to keep their players from attending - is counting against them.
Flowers said: "In terms of international experience, and when I say that I include world tournaments such as the IPL where you've got the best players in the world playing, we're lacking some of the experience that the other top international sides have. We're learning about this game as the tournament progresses." email@example.com England v India, starts at 8.30pm, ART Prime Sport