Centurion:Ravaged by injuries and unsettled by a disappointing build-up, India would seek to draw inspiration from history when they clash against arch-rivals Pakistan in their Champions Trophy opener on Saturday.
The team has decided to keep Amit Mishra, Virat Kohli & Abhishek Nayar out of the playing XI against the arch-rivals.
Already missing star performers like opener Virender Sehwag and pacer Zaheer Khan, India were dealt another massive blow when middle-order mainstay Yuvraj Singh was forced to return home owing a fractured right-hand finger.
Yuvraj's absence has left a gaping hole in the Indian line-up and it would be quite a challenge for the young Virat Kohli to step into the dashing left-hander's shoes.
Apart from the batting and bowling, off-field rumblings have contributed no less to the disquiet in skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's ranks.
India's other batting slots are also far from settled with question marks on the early rustiness of Gautam Gambhir, who was nursing a groin strain before the tournament. Gambhir did not play in the team's lone practice match, against New Zealand, which the team lost by a humiliating 103 runs.
Off the field, coach Gary Kirsten's leaked vision document has both been a matter of whispers and jibes. His advocacy of sex for better performance from cricketers is already a matter of intense scrutiny and interpretations.
Given how the team performs, this unseemly advice from the coach would continue to return in public domain of discussion.
The slow track at Centurion is not good news for India's new-ball bowlers of whom RP Singh didn't look at his best in the warm-up game against New Zealand.
Ishant Sharma is busy receiving advice from his seniors while Ashish Nehra has to step up his performance by a notch or two.
The likes of Dinesh Karthick and Suresh Raina have got a good opportunity to make use of Yuvraj's absence and make their mark.
Much would be expected of them against Pakistan's quality attack, which has a lot of variety to offer.
In the fast bowling department, Mohammad Aamer's seamers are ably complemented by the swing of Navedul Hasan Rana. Umar Gul then lies in wait with his deadly reverse swings.
In spinners Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, the team has tweakers who have time and again proved their mettle. It remains to be seen whether dope-tainted Mohammad Asif, who completed his one-year ban on September 22, would get a chance in the crucial match.
Pakistan's batting, bolstered by the confirmation that regular skipper Younus Khan has recovered from a finger injury, too has improved by leaps and bounds.
Pakistan struggled against the rag-tag West Indies on Wednesday but young Umar Akmal takes tons of loads off seniors Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus.
Akmal appears to be a genuine batting star on the rise and could prove to be India's biggest headache in the match. India have history on their side though as they have never been beaten by Pakistan in an ICC event.
Dhoni's propensity to win tosses in key matches could also be critical in the day-night match.
Centurion is the venue where India last beat Pakistan in an ICC event, the 2003 World Cup. Six years on, Pakistan is keen to avenge the loss.
They sure look more settled and determined with players openly voicing a burning desire to put India on mat tomorrow. They still would have to reckon with a legend called Sachin Tendulkar who has unfailingly come good in critical matches in recent times.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Abhishek Nayar, Ashish Nehra, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh.
Pakistan: Younus Khan (capt), Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Anjum, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Yousuf, Naved-ul-Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul.
Match starts at 6 p.m IST.