STARING at the turf below, Misbah-ul-Haq dragged his feet on his way to a shattered Pakistan dressing room. The score was 220/9 and the fans in green seemed resigned to their fate. The regular followers of India vs Pakistan at the World Cup had seen this before. The only thing that had changed was the venue and score. It was 231 all out (Mohali, 2011) and 152 all out (Johannesburg, 2007). India stretched their World Cup-winning streak over Pakistan by registering a 76-run win on Sunday and once again, it was the Misbah frame on which the credits were rolling. (Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
“I don’t know, this keeps happening,” the dazzled and defeated skipper would say when asked to explain Pakistan’s sixth straight World Cup loss to India.
Not very far, on the porch outside the stadium, the Indians fans were refusing to leave. They were celebrating the win and the bragging rights they had earned over Pakistan supporters for the next four years, should the two teams not run into each other in the knockouts. Across Australia — in Adelaide, especially — Pakistan fans, fearing to face their Indian colleagues, are expected to take a day off on Monday. Come 2019 and India will swagger to the World Cup armed with statistics and Pakistan will once again bank on hope and its players’ promise to turn the tide.
Hours before the play started, it was clear that India had the numbers. There were just a few patches of green in the mostly ‘blue’ stands. Before the start of the game, if a referendum was taken in the stands at the Adelaide Oval to decide the result of the contest, India would have won easily. At the end, in a snap poll to decide the better team on the day, the result would have been the same.
It was a magical transformation of the team that had struggled all summer in Australia.
Shikhar Dhawan wasn’t edging the ball to slips like he had done so often, of late. He was gracefully guiding the ball behind the square or driving through covers. Virat Kohli didn’t poke at the ball like he did in the tri-series last month, he was punching them. Suresh Raina was sending the short balls over the ropes. The batting looked settled, this despite the fact that Ajinkya Rahane, the most reassuring batsmen of the Aussie tour, played just three balls.
The bigger surprise was the performance of the pace unit. They actually bowled to a plan and were also disciplined. Mohammad Sami surprised Younis Khan with a short ball to get the breakthrough. He didn’t bowl too many down the leg. Ashwin started with a maiden and had Haris Sohail caught by the strategically placed slip with beautifully loopy off-spinner. Umesh Yadav took two wickets in three balls to turn the game in India’s favour. Ravindra Jadeja got one with subtle spin and MS Dhoni got a referral right.
It was tough to believe these were the same set of guys who hadn’t won anything in the last two months.
Maybe, it was the Pakistan team that had triggered a change in the Indian team. Dhoni agreed. “It’s definitely emotionally draining, but the boys are highly charged-up. You have to channelise that intensity. In this game, we did all things very well,” he said.
Oh yes, jeetega bhai jeetega? It was all happening at the Adelaide Oval. WATCH!