Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir played a crucial role in his team’s Champions Trophy 2017 triumph after the left-arm bowler scalped the wickets of Rohit Sharma and captain Virat Kohli early during India’s 339-run chase in London. Talking about Kohli’s dismissal, Amir during an interview with ESPNCricinfo revealed the plans he had for Kohli and other top-order batsmen.
“Everybody knows if you get Kohli, India is 50% out of the game. Until he is at the crease, India’s chances of winning are 70-80%. If you look at his chasing ratio, he is at the top of the world. He chases well, he performs well under pressure. So our plan was to get their top order – [Shikhar] Dhawan, [Rohit] Sharma, Kohli, the guys who were scoring the runs in the tournament. My plan was that I didn’t want to save runs, I wanted to take wickets. If we could get one or two from the top, we could win the match.”
India were reduced to 6/72 in the final before Hardik Pandya decided to go after the bowlers in London. Pandya slammed a brisk 76 off just 46 balls before he run-out after a confusion in the middle with Ravindra Jadeja.
“The pitch was the kind where you couldn’t stop the runs. Even after they were six down, [Hardik] Pandya was hitting so big – the wicket was that flat. You couldn’t stop the runs flowing, you could only take wickets to win the game,” he said.
Talking more about his plans for the final, Amir suggested that he was focusing on picking up wickets in quick succession rather putting a halt at the run-flow.
“My plan in the first spell was that even if I gave away 35-40 runs in the first five but took two wickets, then we were in the game. So the target was to get these two or three guys out,” he added.
Kohli was dropped before getting out. Sharing his thoughts about the dropped catch, Mohammad Amir told “When Kohli was dropped, I thought half the game was gone to be honest. Because he is the kind of batsman if you give him a chance, he won’t score less than hundred. Ninety-percent of the time, you give him a chance, he gets a hundred. Recently against New Zealand, they dropped him on 15 or 20 and he scored a hundred. He doesn’t give you a second chance.”
“I remembered Fakhar [Zaman] and how he had been out on a no-ball and had then scored a hundred. That kind of thing happens when you are walking back, it came to me immediately and I thought I hope this doesn’t happen to us now,” he added.
Kohli was dismissed after giving a catch to Shadab Khan at point on a delivery that came into him. The right-hander tried to play the delivery towards on-side but closed the face of the bat early and ended up giving a catch to Shadab.
“In my mind, I thought he’ll be ready for my inswinger, because the previous ball had been an outswinger. So I thought, 80-90% he would be ready for an inswinger. But I wanted to bowl at him in the same area, and move it away again. If you look at the clips of it, you can see he shaped to play it to leg, he moved to play it to on [side], thinking I was going to bring it in. My thinking was that if I bowl again in the same area, the same ball going away, he might go to play it thinking it is coming in, and edge it to slip again, but it went with the angle to point.” he revealed.
India and Pakistan haven’t played a bilateral series for quite some time. Amir admitted that performing against a team like India will definitely raise the value of a player.
“There are two teams against whom my energy is always very high: India and Australia. I get a real boost that I want to do something against them. It is natural because they are two tough teams, very tough teams. You know Australia is a very tough side and India, as a Pakistani, you know everyone is thinking that if you can perform against India, your star value, your cricketing value, image and reputation goes up big time, from nowhere to very high. Even if you haven’t done anything in five games against other teams but manage to do something against India in one match, then it evens up all your performances in a year,” Amir told.
Moreover, Amir added that playing against India adds to the ability of handling pressure in crunch situations. “See I’ve always believed you have to be thankful for what you already have, that we are playing cricket, and that is enough. I am representing my country, playing against Australia, England, India, that is enough. Against India, sure, there is that edge. You perform against them, it is something that stays with you an entire career like ‘Amir did this against India, or that’. If you look at Saeed [Anwar] bhai’s 194, everyone remembers it till today [because] it came against India. In India-Pakistan games, your star value increases, on both sides, and cricket benefits, cricket boards benefit. And your [ability to handle] pressure levels become very strong.”
“These are pressure games, not about skills, I’ve always believed that. If you play against each other regularly, under all that pressure, you become so good at handling it that in other games, with lesser pressure, it doesn’t bother you, because you’ve gone through such big pressure. So you should have these games.”