Under-pressure India prepares for Pakistan challenge
KOLKATA, India (AP) Pakistan is yet to win against India at any World Cup or World Twenty20 but Saturday's game at a full Eden Gardens, which has a capacity of over 66,000, might just be the chance to pull one off.
India came into the World Twenty20 as the favorite with 10 wins in 11 previous Twenty20 games but crashed to a shock 47-run defeat to New Zealand in the Super 10 stage opener in Nagpur.
Home advantage seemed to be a fallacy as Indian batsmen surrendered to spinners on a pitch aiding turn and were bowled out for only 79 in the Group 2 game.
''Our batsmen are to be blamed for the loss to New Zealand,'' captain M.S. Dhoni said. ''I'd not say that our next game against Pakistan is a do-or-die one but the important thing is that we have to be keen on the margin of victories as we move on.''
If India's strength in batting failed it, Pakistan had just the opposite start with its unfancied batting lineup firing away in Kolkata to carve out an impressive 55-run win against Bangladesh, a side it lost to at the recent Asia Cup.
Mohammad Hafeez (64), Ahmed Shehzad (52) and captain Shahid Afridi (49 off 19) helped post a morale-boosting 201-5.
In fact, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar backs Pakistan.
''After the loss to New Zealand, India will be under far more pressure against Pakistan,'' Gavaskar told the NDTV news channel. ''I feel Pakistan start as favorites for the game on Saturday.''
India has a traditional weakness against left-arm pace bowlers and Gavaskar feels Mohammad Amir is the biggest threat from the left-arm trio also comprising Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz.
Pakistan, whose departure for the tournament was delayed over security concerns that led to this game being moved from Dharamsala, is more at home at the Eden Gardens having played a practice game here apart from the opener.
Its record at the venue too is immaculate as it has won all its four previous limited overs games against India there - in 1987, 1989, 2004 and 2013. Saturday's game will the first T20 between the two sides at the venue.
Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh are the other teams in what is considered to the tougher of the two groups at the Super 10 stage.
Defending champion Sri Lanka, South Africa, England, West Indies and Afghanistan are in Group 1.