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India look set to make it 13-0 against Pakistan, and that's not a jingoistic assessment

Firstpost logo Firstpost 24-10-2021 Atul Wassan
India look set to make it 13-0 against Pakistan, and that's not a jingoistic assessment © Provided by Firstpost India look set to make it 13-0 against Pakistan, and that's not a jingoistic assessment

Well, the day has arrived! As it has happened in the past 29 years since the first showdown between the two teams in Australia in 1992, India have never lost a World Cup match against Pakistan. The score card reads 12-0 in India’s favour and this has been a huge monkey on the back for Pakistan. It seems it might just become 13-0 today.

What I say is not just due to my jingoistic Indian genes, but based on logic and data, and I will explain that. For analysing anything, you need to have a micro and macro viewpoint. Macro influences play a huge part and the Indian team’s dominance in cricket has its roots post 2004 as Saurav Ganguly after backing rookies like Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, among others, paved the way for the rise of Team India. After him, the baton was passed to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And as they say, rest is history.

The period also coincided with the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which saw a huge amount of money coming into cricket. This was also the time when the Indian economy was booming, turning the entire Indian outlook and psyche vibrant and positive. This infused Vitamin M (money) into the veins of India to dredge the latent cricketing talent out of India’s nook and corner into the mainstream. This has brought in the generation of go-getters. Those who just don’t know the meaning of defeat. India’s recent performances, whether in Australia where most of their big players were injured, or in England show the mettle these young boys are built of.

In comparison, Pakistan are a pale shadow of their glorious past. At a time when India started dominating the world cricketing arena, Pakistan saw themselves losing the plot and dwindling into oblivion. More so after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks when India decided to shut the door on their immediate western neighbour, and the Sri Lanka team terror attack in Pakistan, after which no foreign team was willing to travel to Pakistan. These two events played a big part in Pakistan’s cricketing decline, though these were not the only reasons. For, Pakistan’s slide into the grip of Islamist forces also has its role.

The confidence and attitude of Pakistani cricketers changed and their insecurities can be seen clearly in the manner in which the team has invariably choked at crucial times and also hyperbolic claims by Pakistani captains before key clashes. Clearly, such over-the-top statements are meant to placate overzealous fans but, ironically, in the end, the team is left red faced after the match. So Babar Azam’s statement that Pakistan will win in Dubai was on expected lines. In comparison, Virat Kohli has been objective and balanced, focusing on building up the team's attitude and confidence.

Unlike the Pakistani team, Kohli and boys are not beating themselves into frenzy and swayed by the public sentiment to win at any cost against Pakistan. They are focused on winning the World Cup as Kohli knows that even reaching the final will be considered a failure for India. In contrast, going by media reports and public pulse in Pakistan, their team motto is to just register a win against India and winning the World Cup is secondary. This creates extra pressure on players as they know they can become heroes or villains in just one game. This is not a conducive space, mentally, for a player, and hence the cases of last-minute choking we have seen in the last few World Cup encounters between the two, including the one at Old Trafford in 2019.

The micro pointers are that the IPL 2021 was recently played in Dubai in which almost all Indian players played. They know the conditions better than anyone else. In contrast, Pakistan lost out on two home series against New Zealand and England after the two teams refused to play in Pakistan citing security concerns.

The other big factor is the strong Indian batting line-up against an inexperienced Pakistani bowling attack led by 23-year-old Shaheen Afridi — indeed, a big ask from a young, upcoming talent! The slide in Pakistan spin department is also palpable as Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim are no Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq. As for the Pakistani batting line-up, apart from Babar Azam, no one looks formidable enough to face the likes of Jasprit Bumrah.

The Achilles’ heel for India could be the lack of the sixth bowling option, with Hardik Pandya not bowling these days due to an injury. So, if a bowler gets injured or has a bad day, then India might be struggling. But this is the call Kohli has taken and so be it. With Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja along with Pandya as finishers, India look to be in the driving seat. More so, with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli up in the line-up. My dark horse, however, for this World Cup will be KL Rahul.

The writer is a former India fast bowler and a cricket expert. Views expressed are personal.

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