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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

At World Twenty20, it’s all about India vs Pakistan

Before the World T20 began, it was all about India vs Pakistan and that hype affected the performance of both teams.

Written by Jaideep Ghosh | Published: March 25, 2016 2:26:30 pm
india vs australia, ind vs aus, india cricket team, india cricket, pakistan vs australia, australia vs pakistan, pak vs aus, aus vs pak, pakistan cricket news, pakistan, t20 world cup, icc world t20, world cup 2016, cricket score, cricket news, cricket India beat Pakistan comfortably but were all over the place against Bangladesh. (Source: PTI)

It would serve everyone in India – the spectators, media, the BCCI, broadcasters and all concerned – to remember that a World Cup has teams other than India and Pakistan playing.

From weeks, if not months, before the tournament began, it has all been about India and Pakistan. Permutation and combinations, conjecture, plans, hype, you name it, and it was all about these two teams.

Nothing else mattered, and even the early warnings were ignored as India lost their very first game to New Zealand. Never mind that, what about Pakistan?

There was a lot song and dance about how Dharamshala came into the limelight, and then fell into the political quagmire.

Up came the noise about security, and the Pakistan government and cricket board did their best to make India feel uncomfortable. Before, predictably, they came. After that was the match. And what drama!

There never could possibly have been a league match in any sport anywhere in the world with so much drama. Songs were sung, gifts and mementoes presented, speeches made, like it was the end of the last Olympic Games, ever.

Ridiculous to the extreme, at least India got that one out of the way. And that, ladies and gentlemen, seemed to be all that this World Cup was about.

Hello? What about the little matter of qualifying for the semi-finals and then winning the Cup?

Oh? That’s there too? Sorry. Thought it was all about Pakistan.

So when the happy bunch reached Bengaluru for their match Bangladesh, all were happy and in a party mode. No big deal, just a walk in the park.

Really?

At the end of the last over at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, when the last ball saw the ninth Bangladesh batsman short of the crease by bare inches, the reality of what the tournament is all about sank in.

India escaped with a match that they were losing till 19.3 overs in the second inning. With that win came two points that everyone seemed to have either forgotten, or taken for granted.

Lessons galore to learn from this game. The very first one is, please, please forget the Pakistan game once it is done. All that we have heard or read in the past nearly a week is about the ‘match of the century’ (which , incidentally, is played in every ICC tournament) and how Pakistan were defeated, the 11th time since 1992.

So when it came to taking on Bangladesh, no one thought about it. The sort of banana skin on which India have slipped before too.

Once the breathing comes down to normal levels, people will be out partying, celebrating another ‘great’ win, let’s not forget one thing – India had no business winning the game. It was Bangladesh who lost it.

Why India had no business inning this is simple – they didn’t take the Bangladesh match seriously till they were almost out of the game.

After that, it took a little bit of inspired thinking from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, an inspired 19th over from Jasprit Bumrah and a disaster of epic proportions from Bangladesh to hand India two vital points.

Thankfully, things are still on the track for India and this scare would have shaken off the dreamy sheen of having defeated Pakistan.

That was absolutely essential, since now India has a virtual knockout game with Australia, who would be backing themselves to beat Pakistan and grab two more points.

There are some issues that seem to be carried away in euphoria, be it when India beat Pakistan and also when they get past Bangladesh.

For one, we have again found ourselves in a situation where either Virat Kohli scores a big total, or we end up struggling.

The opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been quite average, and Yuvraj Singh is nowhere near the batsman we had seen and hope to see every evening.

Suresh Raina gets runs every third match, while the likes of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are hitters, not creators.

Dhoni was inspired as a captain, as he frequently has been. His bowling changes were instinctively good, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ashish Nehra delivering at crucial junctures.

The sum total of all these problems being highlighted above is this – Australia aren’t Bangladesh. They will not come to a stage where they need two runs off three deliveries and then let India off the hook.

For that matter, they will ensure that this situation doesn’t arise at all.

It would also serve all concerned well not to make a tamasha out of every India-Pakistan math. The amount of pressure and relief that comes from winning or losing any such game can reflect on the next game, as was evident o Wednesday.

It could well also be a good idea not to ensure that these two nations aren’t always in the same group.

But that may too much to ask. After all, it is all about India and Pakistan.

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