Kochi, April 1: This is God's Own Country, but the passionate joust between mortals tomorrow may redefine sporting face-offs in this part of the world.
With momentum a factor, both India and Pakistan are expected to hold absolutely nothing back in the opening Pepsi Cup ODI at the awesome (even intimidating) Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium.
The amphitheatre, which hosts myriad events, won't have any of its 75,000 seats unoccupied.
The build-up has seen Rahul Dravid inaugurate an exhibition of his mother's paintings; the visitors have relaxed on a team hotel-organised cruise. The business-end of everybody's trip, though, is at hand.
What's to be seen is whether an individual spark of brilliance ' from, say, a Sachin Tendulkar or Shahid Afridi ' does the trick or the more conventional team effort.
Pakistan pulled off a superb win in Bangalore to square the Test series, but Inzamam-ul Haq himself accepted the difference in the two forms was as pronounced as between chalk and cheese.
'Jeetne ke liye mehnat karna hoga.... Sirf past ko le kar nahin chal sakte.... Woh phir problem ban jayega,' he explained inimitably.
Sourav Ganguly's thinking is similar. Given that Team India was a poor second in the last Test, he can hardly view things otherwise.
Nobody will admit it, but the Indians probably became complacent towards the middle of the Bangalore showdown: A draw, which would have ensured a joint No. 2 ranking in the ICC standings, appeared taken for granted.
We know the price paid.
So, with ODI No. 1 hours away, complacency is far from the Indians' minds. Pakistan, after all, has won each of the last four games, this sequence beginning in Colombo last July.
Actually, in the shorter version, India hasn't beaten the all-rounders'-packed Pakistan in the Bob Woolmer era.
'I accept they're a good one-day team, but aren't unbeatable,' Sourav, under pressure to plot a turnaround, told The Telegraph.
He is 64 short of joining Sachin and Inzamam in the 10,000 runs' club.
It was in Kochi, a trifle over five years ago, that Sourav began wearing the captain's hat full-time. Today, that should inspire, more so as it was a winning start ' against South Africa.
Assuming India gets to dictate terms, the in-form Younis Khan's absence ought to make it easier. The vice-captain hasn't recovered from a chest infection and may even be in doubt for the second ODI, in Vizag on April 5.
Another in-form batsman, Yousuf Youhana, was unwell but has been cleared to take the field.
India's last ODI was over three months ago, in Dhaka, whereas Pakistan played more recently (in Australia). Besides, Pakistan had a limited overs warm-up game in Hyderabad the other day.
However, given the wealth of Indian experience, that shouldn't cause concern.
According to well-placed sources, the Team India thinktank has decided to drop Irfan Pathan ' who never quite bowled to potential in the Test series ' and play Ashish Nehra.
Pathan, then, is going to keep Murali Kartik and Dinesh Mongia company on the reserves bench.
As for Pakistan, they have chosen to pick only one of the three ODI specialists summoned for the series ' allrounder Mohammed Hafeez. Danish Kaneria, by the way, won't feature in the XI.
Barring the last game, when Zimbabwe upset India three years ago, the other two ODIs here have seen wins for the home team ' and 300-plus scores in three of the four innings.
So, what tomorrow'
Meanwhile, Match Referee Chris Broad is understood to have vetoed the use of floodlights (if required) as all six venues don't have the facility.
INDIA: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra.
PAKISTAN: Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Sami, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Arshad Khan.
Umpires: Billy Bowden, A.V. Jayaprakash. TV: I. Shivram.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: 9 am