Nerves will again hold the key as one of cricket's most gripping rivalries takes the stage at the Asia Cup today, according to Gautam Gambhir, the India opener. Pakistan, who lost their opening game in the Asia Cup against hosts Sri Lanka despite a battling century from Shahid Afridi, will be fighting to keep their hopes in the tournament alive when they take on India in Dambulla. Free entry to the stadium will, of course, assure the game a decent attendance, but millions more will be glued to their televisions in India, Pakistan and around the globe as the high-voltage cricketing rivalry resumes after an eight-month hiatus.
The last time the teams met, it was for the Champions Trophy in South Africa and the Pakistan fans were the ones celebrating. India will be looking to get even, but Gambhir was cautiously optimistic given the unpredictability of their rivals, especially in a desperate situation. Another defeat for Pakistan will mean a ticket back home. "It is going to be a do-or-die match for Pakistan," Gambhir, the man of the match in India's comfortable victory over Bangladesh, told PTI, the India news agency. "In situations like these they are quite unpredictable. Whoever holds their nerve will win that game.
"India have a very good bowling attack. If we can put up runs on the board, we should be able to restrict them. But it all depends how things turn out on that day." The toss will also be crucial on a wicket that becomes tricky to bat on under the lights. MS Dhoni, the India captain, is hoping to get lucky with the spin of the coin. "I remember the last few series that I have played [in Dambulla]; most of the time you win the toss you end up winning the game," Dhoni said in a TV interview.