For many, India-Pakistan is the ultimate dream final; so when they faceoff in their opening matches itself, right at the start of the World Cup, it offers a delicate irony.
Victory will still be savoured, yes, but it will not be as sweet.
Of course, every Indian is already treating Sunday's encounter at the Adelaide Oval as a cakewalk: the team has never lost to Pakistan on this platform and they don't expect the script to unfold in a different way in the rarefied climes of down under.
True, India barely had to bat their eyelids in any of the five Cup games, beating them across four continents; the same veneer of invincibility, however, brings in an altogether different dimension to the contest: the law of averages.
Any statistician will confirm that you can't keep winning against the same opponent, especially if there isn't much to distinguish between the two teams: after all, both have always had the depth and desire to even become the best in the world at some point or the other.Indeed, their battles in other formats and other events have been much more evenly balanced, with Pakistan actually enjoying a healthy edge at 72-45; it can be argued that India have been lucky in the World Cup as they enjoyed first mover's advantage on four occasions.
Yes, they won the toss on as many as four occasions and got the opportunity to set up the target; that ensured that Pakistan were always in the boiling cauldron called pressure, and they just wilted each time as the heat got to them.On the one occasion that they batted first and even amassed a daunting 273, they ran into an emotionally charged Indian team; Sachin Tendulkar himself was in a zone and it didn't matter that Shoaib Akhtar was breathing fire and raw pace.
The law of averages will certainly loom over the two captains; but in this context, it probably descends into a different dimension and that might well have an overwhelming effect on the game itself, if not the result: the two teams have never looked so ordinary or average.India have traditionally been the stronger batting side and, on paper, they still look formidable; the truth, however, is that as a group, they have been woefully out of form and, last heard, are still uncomfortable on bouncy pitches.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have always been sharper with the ball: but for this edition, they have been hit by injuries and Mohammad Irfan is the only real threat. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah may prove to be the joker in the pack, especially as he is an unknown weapon.
Of course, the lesser forces India's bowlers or Pakistan's batsmen might still have the last laugh; that is probably the only way this game will be commensurate with the passion and intensity that it generates among the two nations.
Maybe, it will yet be a dream game.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.