By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It was a day where two rivalries ensued at the ICC World T20 2012. While one is a traditional one with its deep roots in history, the other has more to do with the recent past and their respective unique brands of cricket. The India-Pakistan and Australia-South Africa contests were touted as epics, but they turned out to be one-sided affairs, devoid of the usual excitement. The victors – India and Australia – registered comprehensive eight wicket victories and completely dominated their rivals.
Let us focus on the India-Pakistan game - the more intense rivalry off the two on show on Sunday. Going into the game, Pakistan had a clear advantage, given the fact that they had a better track record in T20 internationals. On form in this tournament, they had the upper hand as India had been very erratic. However, a different Indian team turned up and looked up for the contest. The whole buzz around the game may have lifted their spirits and prompted them to perform better.
As one of the commentators pointed out, the balance of power has shifted more towards India in recent years because they have absorbed the pressure well. Pakistan, on the other hand, have looked too eager in such clashes as they have tried too hard to make things go their way. A common feature in recent contests between the two sides would be a below-par Pakistani performance in the field. The fielders seem adamant on shying at the stumps even when it isn’t required. Then there are overthrows, a few misfields and not to forget a spilled chance or two.
India would be very happy with their performance and this win would give them tremendous confidence. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni would know that the job isn’t done and they need to maintain consistency – something that has been missing during this campaign. As mentioned earlier, they have been too erratic as a poor performance has been followed up with a brilliant one and vice versa.
Let us track India’s progress since the warm-ups, where they beat Sri Lanka comfortably and then slipped to a defeat against Pakistan. In the group stages, they just about got past Afghanistan and then mauled England to secure a victory. Australia bludgeoned India into submission and then came along this comprehensive victory over the arch-rivals. It is evident that there has been no middle path, with the peaks and troughs alternating.
Keeping this into perspective, the five bowler debate has no real relevance as the team itself isn’t striking consistency. Even with five-bowlers India were nowhere near competing with Australia and the same strategy didn’t work against Pakistan in the warm-up. It is imperative that the bowlers maintain discipline and show good application in the middle. Lakshmipathy Balaji and Zaheer Khan were good, although they were hit around a little. Irfan Pathan was a touch expensive, but picked up the crucial first wicket.
The performance of Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh should be lauded as they were the ones who strangled Pakistan. In the seven overs they bowled between them, they conceded only 32 runs and scalped four wickets. Yuvraj, in particular, looked like a man possessed. Since his comeback he has looked a little weak and not at his best in terms of fitness, but during this game he looked charged up. The typical celebrations on picking a wicket were back, and more importantly he was brilliant in the field. The direct hit to run-out Yasir Arafat was a major statement made by him.
Irrespective of the format, Virat Kohli continues to be in brilliant form. He comes in, soaks all the pressure and places India in a very comfortable situation. At the age of 23, he has become India’s mainstay and a lot of their hopes depend on him. As the year has progressed, one can sense an assured touch to his batting and most of the deliveries look innocuous when he faces them. His feet are moving well and the bat is meating the ball.
India now has to beat South Africa to have a good chance of qualifying through to the semi-finals. There are a number of permutations and combinations involved and the picture would only become clearer once the games are done. This teamwork and discipline has to be carried forward to that game and the erratic tendencies have to be nipped.
For now, India can rejoice that its unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups is intact.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)