Shahid Afridi was left disappointed with Pakistan’s showing in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 opening game against India which the latter went on to win by a convincing 124 run margin. While Afridi, former Pakistan captain, attacked Pakistan for their abject showing, he applauded India for playing like favourites and staying in a positive frame of mind throughout the rain-affected encounter at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
“The Indo-Pak Champions Trophy encounter failed to live up to its hype as Pakistan produced a forgettable performance at Edgbaston. As a Pakistani supporter, the drab show was a painful watch indeed as India once again proved that it has a stranglehold over its neighbour that it is in no mood to relinquish,” Afridi wrote in his column for ICC. “India started as the favourite and played the entire game in the same frame of mind, even as Pakistan crumbled limply.”
India started out by scoring 319 runs from 48 overs with Pakistan guilty of abysmal fielding and inconsistent bowling. Later, in their chase, Azhar Ali scored a fifty in the opening slot but no one else chipped in. The middle order collapsed tamely to lose five wickets in 33 runs.
Afridi brought into question skipper Sarfraz Ahmed’s bizarre strategy of using the new ball. “Sarfraz Ahmed won what was a crucial toss in tricky weather conditions. When rain is around, the team batting second gets a huge advantage. Unfortunately though, a poor game plan and shoddy execution, besides abysmal fielding, nullified the advantage,” he said.
“Mohammad Amir bowled a splendid first over and I thought he would strike with the new ball. Strangely though, Sarfraz handed the other new ball to Imad Wasim despite the overcast conditions. The tactic was perplexing for me since the match wasn’t being played in the UAE! Even if Sarfraz wanted to surprise India, he should have deployed his faster bowlers after an over or two from Imad.”
He added that the early misfielding and inconsistent bowling allowed Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to settle in and they never looked back. “Players of the calibre of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are very hard to stop if they are allowed to settle early, and that is what Pakistan allowed them to do,” he said.
“While the Indian openers negotiated Amir carefully, they gradually got their eye in against Imad. Pakistan missed a trick and for the rest of the Indian innings there was hardly a period where they looked troubled. Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh then flayed a tiring attack before Hardik Pandya’s cameo turned the match totally in the defending champion’s favour,” Afridi added.
Pakistan let go of two glorious chances to dismiss Kohli and Yuvraj but both were allowed to continue after dropping easy chances. “Pakistan’s fielding was very ordinary too, with easy runs given away inside the circle, besides the dropped chances, which made life tougher for the bowlers. The players
looked tense and nervous despite the claims to the contrary before the start of the game,” wrote Afridi.
He also went after the batsmen for scoring just 164 runs on a flat surface. “I feel that our batsmen are short on the skills side and freeze under pressure. The senior lot failed to cope with the increasing run-rate and got out after occupying the crease for long but barren durations. There is simply no excuse for a 164-run score on a flat wicket where the opposition managed 319 with consummate ease,” he finished.