PCA Stadium Mohali, the venue for Indo-Pak Semi Final, under the scanner.

                                      Pakistan players drill under lights

Mohali is all awaited to have mother of all matches, India vs Pakistan Semi Final it is in World Cup 2011, even bigger match than the World Cup Final. Pakistan would have not wanted a better venue than it as far as weather and cultural conditions are concerned. Once Pakistan lands in Mohali(Chandigarh), it would be closest venue for Pakistan from Pakistan as Mohali is just 250KM away from Lahore. 

Unique flood lights of Mohali
Mohali is unique day/night venue in whole World. It has 18 light towers, most by any Cricketing venue in world. The reason behind 18 venues is the Airbase of Indian air force nearby stadium; as the jets and helicopters are usually on move that’s why the towers were kept low but were increased to 18. 

Condition of pitch in Mohali
When the stadium was opened in 1994. It had a non-Indian wicket which hardly had support for batsmen, it remained like it for years; producing low scoring encounters. Its one of the most bizarre venues in India where conditions of pitch are always unknown. In 2006 Champions Trophy, there were low scoring encounters but in 2007 Pakistan and India played a run-fest; when Pakistan successfully chased 321 set by India. 

As far as current conditions are concerned, they are yet to be unveiled properly. Some say it will suit Fast bowlers due to grass while others are considering it as a typical Indian batting wicket. Though the curator, Daljeet Singh, has said that there is grass which will help seamers. 

The recent matches played at this venue suggest that it will be a run-fest as conditions and pitch still suit to batting. In December 2009, India chased target of 207 in a T20 Match against Sri Lanka. In 2007, Pakistan chased 322 set by India in 2nd ODI of Series. Last, South Africa piled 351 against the Netherlands at this very venue in this World Cup.

Dew Factor in Mohali
Among all the venues used in this World Cup – save Chittagong – this venue, Mohali, will have most dew in its outfield. Dew has affected the bowling in past, and it will be there once again. We don’t know whether Dew will be massive - like in Chittagong – or less, but it will be there. 

As we have seen the conditions of Punjab getting cooler in last few days so dew can be expected in bulk. However, wind during day might reduce dew in evening.

Bat First or Second?
This will be the biggest conundrum for captains from both side. Pakistan won two matches against India in Mohali, both by chasing the target. But in this World Cup, Pakistan batsmen have struggled during chase. Dew factor will be most important in this decision. So it will never be easy to decide whether to bowl first or bat first. I personally feel that if Shahid Afridi wins the toss he will bat first irrespective of dew factor.

Same case goes with India. They have batted first in some matches in this World Cup, they posted runs in bulk but their bowlers failed to defend it whereas they won the Quarter Final by chasing it. I personally feel that if MS Dhoni wins the toss he will ask Pakistan to bat first. 

Pakistan vs India in Mohali.
This would be biggest factor going in favour of Pakistan when they enter in PCA Stadium Mohali to face India in Semi Final. Pakistan has played two matches against India in Mohali and Pakistan won both of them; both victories came during chase, one was way back in 1999 under captaincy of Wasim Akram while the second one was in 2007 under captaincy of Shoaib Malik. 

Mohali 2007: Shahid Afridi's cameo of 29 in 14 balls helped Pakistan chasing 322 against India.

Indo-Pak 2007 Humdinger at Mohali
Once Pakistan enters in stadium on 30th March, Pakistan will have cushion of this match in their support. Pakistan batsmen played like world champions last time when they faced India in Mohali. India set the target of 322 for Pakistan to win in second ODI of that series, Pakistan batsman chased it successfully. Younis Khan scored 117 in that match whereas Misbah scored 49, at the end Afridi’s cameo of 29 in 14 balls steered Pakistan home in last over. Shoaib Akhtar took 3 wickets by giving just 42 runs in 10 overs.

Abdul Razzak and Kamran Akmal in Mohali
Both of them would love to savour the taste of 2005 Test once again. In first Test of 2005 Indo-Pak Test Series, Pakistan had almost lost the Test before Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzak came to rescue. They both had a marathon partnership which eventually turned the game in “draw”. Kamran Akmal scored century in that match. Both of them have sweet memories in Mohali though it was a Test Match.

Weather conditions in Mohali, Chandigarh.
It would be most similar weather to Pakistan in Mohali. As Mohali lies in Indian Punjab, the culture and weather there would be quite similar to Pakistan’s Punjab. Weather will be bit cooler than Colombo, Hambantota, Kandy. Temperature will be around 30 degree Celsius; making it a perfect weather of spring season in Punjab.
Intakhab Alam’s experience of Mohali
Many of us don’t know that the current manager and ex-coach of Pakistan, Intikhab Alam, will be knowing the conditions of PCA Stadium Mohali more than anyone as he was coach of Indian domestic cricket team, Punjab, in the Ranjhi Trophy. Mohali serves as home for Punjab in Ranjhi Trophy. 

Mohali also served the Semi Final of 1996 World Cup which was a low scoring nail-biting clash between West Indies and Australia. Australia won it and qualified for Final of 1996 World Cup.  

Pakistan’s miseries in Mohali
Pakistan might have a 100% record against India in Mohali but they have struggled at this venue against other nations. The most concerning factor is that matches which Pakistan lost in Mohali were crucial matches; in 1997 Independence Cup, Pakistan lost to New Zealand and then Srilanka(which was one of finals of that event) whereas in 2006 Champions Trophy, Pakistan lost to New Zealand and then South Africa in a must-win game to progress[Pakistan were bowled out on 89 in reply to South Africa’s 213]

Why Mohali for a Semi Final?
I haven’t got a suitable answer that why did BCCI pick Mohali as a Semi Final venue? The most attractive venues like Kolkatta, Bangalore, Chennai were overshadowed in lights of Chandigarh, the reason to this is unknown. The most interesting thing is that; all the venues which India used in World Cup, Mohali(venue for Semi Final) has the least capacity for spectators followed by Mumbai(venue for Final). The move isn’t less than a paradox that why you are using the venue with least capacity for a Semi Final. 

Mohali in Pictures

     Pakistan players offer Namaz in PCA Stadium Mohali

Smog arrives in Mohali during Pakistan-New Zealand match in Champions Trophy 2006

Indian air force helicopter flies over PCA Stadium Mohali

                                Unique flood light system of Mohali

                                 PCA Stadium under typical Punjab fog

Written by, editor of this website, Mazher Arshad on 29/03/2011
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