Think of an India-Pakistan World Cup encounter and certain moments of individual brilliance or flashpoints will jump out, almost as sensory thumbnails. A hopping Javed Miandad, an animated Venkatesh Prasad sending off Aamer Sohail with choicest of expletives, and Sachin Tendulkar surviving four dropped catches and a dubious DRS call.
Sunday’s encounter, however, threw up multiple talking points, all with the potential to command recall value for years to come. None more beautiful than Kuldeep breaching Babar’s gates. For a while, it seemed Azam and Fakhar Zaman would pull off their gambit of negotiating away India’s spinners in the middle overs. The two had put together 114 runs for the second wicket, picking off Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal for 46 of them from a combined nine overs. Then Yadav materialised a delivery straight out of an off-spinner’s (or, in this case, a chinaman’s) dreams. It needed to be a magical delivery to deceive Babar, the opposition’s most technically-correct batsman.
To begin with, Yadav didn’t need to go wider off the crease to push the ball across the right-hander. It started on middle-leg, and the drift kept taking it further left, to what eventually ended up being a fifth-stump line. Bowled at 78kph, the ball had enough hang time to do its thing.
In the preceding overs too, Azam looked perturbed tackling the spinners on the front foot. There was the lbw appeal off Chahal that was never referred.
And the stumping attempt off Yadav which was, only for Azam to make it back just in time. Yadav’s wicket-taking delivery was again tossed up. And the sharp dip meant Azam, despite taking two small steps, still ended a yard or two short.
The only respite for Azam would be the realisation that he didn’t do a lot wrong, if you discount the aforementioned short stride. But the 24-year-old could be expected to replay the dismissal in his mind almost as many times as it would be replayed on mobile screens for days to come. The last time a clip of Azam getting out went viral was also to Yadav, at last September’s Asia Cup.
That evening in Dubai, it was a wrong ‘un which pitched on middle. The dip however was even sharper, to the point that even the two small steps, followed by a shimmy down the track, couldn’t help Azam reach the pitch off the ball, as it spun away and kissed the off-stump. A bewildered Azam could only do a double-take then. Was that dismissal playing somewhere the back of his mind? It would certainly explain the batsman trying to get outside of the line and the face of the bat, slightly open, resulting in crack of daylight the delivery needed to sneak in and crash into the stumps.
The other moment evoking sweet memories came during India’s innings. A Pakistani fast bowler, an Indian opener, a delivery short and wide and fast, and an uppercut disappearing over the third man boundary.
A Rohit Sharma innings will almost always lend entries for the highlight reel. There was the imperial cover drive off Wahab Riaz and the signature pick-up off Hasan Ali. But nothing caught the fancy of viewers much like the uppercut off Hasan. It wasn’t as glorious as the 2003 encounter, what with the absence of a Shoaib Akhtar dashing in to melt the speed gun and a Sachin Tendulkar at the top of his game, and the 150kmph bumper. But composite images of the two Mumbaikars playing almost an identical shot made the rounds nevertheless.
— Rushi (@iamrushi_303) June 17, 2019
But no moment from Sunday’s match is guaranteed to be preserved more on the internet than Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed yawning behind the stumps after taking the field post a half-hour long rain break.
Sarfraz Ahmed yawning behind the stumps after taking the field post a half-hour long rain break.The photos and the short clip, bouncing between the two contrasting captains — a lethargic Sarfaraz and the Duracell-bunny Virat Kohli — had already made the rounds, making the wicket-keeper the latest meme to come out of this World Cup.
Contrarians and optimists can choose to believe that Sarfaraz was instead employing some reverse psychology, perhaps hinting that an on-fire Kohli and marching India didn’t bother him much. Mind games or not, expect former Pakistan players to take Sarfraz’s case again. Akhtar might lead the charge, wildly gesticulating and chiding: “Itna bada uska muh khula hua tha.”