Pakistan's first win over India in World Cup cricket
Finally, it had to happen _ an Indian defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the World Cup. In the 12 previous meetings of the two nations, India had grabbed wins, even close ones, but as it happened, the 13th meeting saw Pakistan put the clock back to when the team had always proved a tricky customer to any opponent. What is pertinent is the way India capitulated, to a 10-wicket loss, something that makes one wonder whatever happened to these home heroes, who had been considered such lovely performers on the field. To say they were docile would be an understatement for such was Pakistan's dominance from the word go after its skipper Babar Azam did the first thing right with the toss! If confidence was the highpoint of Pakistan's display, then the Indians presented a picture of confusion, a touch of clueless and a total lack of orientation. Azam had in the runup to this high-voltage contest expressed in no uncertain words that “we will win and break the WC jinx,” and true to his stand, his team backed him to the hilt to make what many would perceive an unlucky 13 to a lucky and memorable outing in Dubai.
The True India lost, leaving a legion of fans all around the globe a disappointed lot. The fans cannot be blamed for such was the history, favouring India in the World cup. But all is not over. To quote what tennis legend Boris Becker said after he lost to Peter Doohan in the second round in Wimbledon. “I didn't start a war. Nobody died. I only lost a tennis match, nothing more”. Similar has to be India's thinking or Kohli's submission to those after him. These are only early days and there is every chance that India can rearrange its resources to fight back, enter the knock-out round and with the prayers of its supporters and class performances even reach the final and what is more, once again face Pakistan and win! Many things can happen en route because as Cricket legend Ian Chappell said, T20 could be considered a lottery that can go any way for a team., One good turn is enough to settle the issue. As it happened in Dubai, one good turn by Shaheen Afridi with the new ball helped dislodge the top order and virtually set the path of victory for Pakistan. It could have gone the other way had Rohit Sharma (out of the first ball he faced) and Rahul (both Afridi's victims) remained to provide what they usually do, the touch of class or source of enjoyment to the Indian fans. Both have the ability to electrify the settings, but that was not to be, sadly.
But strictly from the India-Pakistan context, it was a loss that as always went beyond a mere contest. For the millions of fans, it was a moment of unreality, particularly after having seen India pull off stunners against this arch-rival for much of the 12 meetings earlier. One mind goes back to that inaugural 2007 edition in South Africa. Pakistan was almost at a touching distance of a win in the final chasing India's modest total. One wicket in hand and just six runs needed off four balls, skipper Misbah Ul Haq, who had held fort so competently to seemingly turn things around for Pakistan, tried an unwise scoop shot and in the process skied the ball for Sreesanth at short fine leg to pouch on. How many heartbeats were missed as the ball descended into the Kerala player's hands, only those who had watched the tantalising moment could say. But that indeed was one big turn of fortune! Pakistan too had such an experience earlier in Sharjah in the Astra-Asia tournament in 1986 when Javed Miandad struck a last-ball six off Chetan Sharma when the team needed four runs! Shock, disbelief and jubilation (depending on which side one was), everything happened on that night in the Gulf! Now this memorable win for Pakistan has again come in the Gulf!
Having said that, it must be stressed that what happened in the current meeting was shocking from an Indian perspective for the manner in which Pakistan had won. It was a crushing defeat that India suffered. At no point did Indian players look like the blue-eyed boys of world cricket. Barring Virat Kohli and to some extent, Rishab Pant none seemed ready for the occasion. Perhaps not having faced the Pakistani bowlers of such quality for a while must have been one reason and indeed the neighbouring country's bowlers packed not just pace but the variety that can be unsettling. But then primed as they are for the big occasion, not to speak of the long stay in Dubai, thanks to the IPL engagements, it must have been an embarrassment for the Indian players that they could not exhibit even a touch of their capability. That both Pakistani openers Azam and Rizwan were not caught in any difficulty facing pace or the 'mystery spinner' Varun Chakravarty was a reflection of how easy things were laid out for the ultimate winner. In total contrast was the way India batters performed. To be sure there is much work to be done by this Indian side and quickly too.
For poor Kohli, who is due to step down as captain of the national team in the shorter form, after the World Cup this was another unwanted low. This is despite his game effort earlier to shore up Indian innings with his studied batting for the most part. A captain can only be that good as his mates would help him to be. It just was not his day.