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It was supposed to be the crowning glory for Kohli and his boys, Pakistan expected to play to the recent script and succumb to India’s superior all-round strength. But it was a giant turn-up for the books, as Pakistan’s unheralded stars became overnight heroes and India’s big stars forced to eat humble pie on the big stage. Sriram Veera deciphers the five factors that contributed to the record rout.
The decision at the toss
India pride themselves to be great chasers, and it can be immensely tempting to go with the same plan, especially after they lost to Sri Lanka even after putting up a total over 300. But here is the thing: Pakistan’s strength is their bowling, and if anything is likely to crack under pressure, it’s their batting. Make something around 300, and wait for the scoreboard pressure to work on the nerves. Instead, India chose to pit their best against Pakistan’s best, but the scoreboard pressure in a big final isn’t something to be sneezed at.
Flat Ashwin flattens India
Perhaps, it’s due to all the occasions he was dropped in the past in the ODIs, R Ashwin – the ODI bowler – is an entirely different beast from the attacking one that turns up for Tests. Very defensive, intent on not bleeding runs, he keeps trying to keep the batsmen quiet. But even if he manages to do it on odd occasions, it’s not going to happen consistently on flat tracks like this. “The captain and bowler aren’t in sync,” Shane Warne would say on air. And you could see why. Virat Kohli had kept a slip, wanted his bowler to attack, but Ashwin was worried about not giving away runs, and kept floating on leg and middle to cramp the batsman for room. Mistake, especially when Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s openers, weren’t in any kamikaze mode. Only 17 of the 70 runs Ashwin conceded came on the off, and that including an edged four. He kept attacking the wrong side, and paid for it. The batsmen weren’t trying to slog; instead took their time, attacked when they wanted, and kept rotating strike. Left with no choice, Kohli took out the slip, and from then on it was clear that India was only going to be defensive, let Pakistan score what they want, and try to chase it down.
Holding back Kedar Jadhav
It’s an obviously risky decision but when you have the confidence to bring him on in the death overs, it’s inexplicable why you wouldn’t try it out in the middle overs when Ashwin had gone all flat on the big day. If the round-arm stuff of Jadhav was plundered, he could have been taken off the attack. Indians might have considered it a gamble, even after his good showing in the semi-final, and they would have been right, but when the regular stuff wasn’t working, India needed to do something. They didn’t, just kept going with the flow, and ended up staring at a mammoth total.
Immense maturity of Fakhar Zaman
He was supposed to be a one-trick pony. Everyone knew he could blast away, but did he have the patience to wear out a difficult phase? He answered that question in some style. Since he is a batsman who crashes at any width outside off, Indians tied him up with a leg-and-middle line with the new ball. Even the spinners did the same initially. But he didn’t give up, didn’t throw his wicket away, kept pushing and prodding, and waited for the release. It came in the 11th over, when he punched Bumrah to the straight boundary. From then on, there wasn’t any self-doubt, there wasn’t any need to restrict himself; he started flowing and so did Pakistan.
Superlative Mohammad Amir
With his ability to swing the ball into the right-hand batsmen, Mohammad Amir was always going to trouble Rohit Sharma. It wasn’t a surprise that he took out Sharma and Kohli, but it was a surprise to see how easy it was. Two balls that went away with the angle, before he got one back in was enough to prise out the opener. He did the reverse to Kohli. He took one back in, through the bat-and pad gap, angled one out but saw the sitter being dropped at first slip. The next ball was again slanted across, but this one was fuller, and Kohli thought he could whip it across. But the ball kept going away from him, and the leading edge was pouched at point.