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IND vs PAK, T20 World Cup 2021: Skill And Not Carrying Burden of Loser’s Baggage Showed Way For Pakistan

Until Sunday (October 24) India had brushed aside all challenges from the assorted Pakistan teams of the past and in World Cup matches played under the aegis of the ICC. India had been winners, hands down on most occasions. The very talented Pakistan outfits boasting of speed merchants like Shoaib Akhtar and a master swing and seam bowler like Wasim Akram had eaten humble pie. The famous victory plotted by Sachin Tendulkar at the Centurion in the 50 over 2003 World Cup clash is still fresh in memory The tricolour waving Indians had a gala time in a venue of the rainbow nation eighteen years ago.

Pakistan losing to India had become a habit; there had been ten-odd occasions of Indian triumphs before the group 2 match of the ICC Men’s World Twenty20 at the petrodollar venue at Dubai. Pressure had played its part, somehow Pakistan could not hold its nerves to repel India for nearly three decades.

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Things though fell in place for a fiercely determined Pakistan side on Sunday. They gave the impression of wanting to excel and win in a clear-cut manner. Babar Azam’s band of cricketers who dreamed of putting it across India gave an exhibition of virtually flawless cricket for almost four hours. Eventually, they beat India hollow.

From the moment left-arm seamer Shaheen Afridi dispatched India’s top class openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul back to the dugout in his lovely opening burst with the new white kookaburra, Pakistan looked the part before its openers Azam and Mohammad Rizwan sealed the fate of the match with a ten-wicket win.

Clearly, Afridi made the ball talk. Probably the brightest seamer to emerge out of Pakistan’s fast bowling talent pool in recent years, he was relentless from the word go and outwitted Sharma with a beauty that created the small gap and struck the right-hander’s back leg. Soon he knocked back Rahul’s middle stump. Late in the India innings, he had the satisfaction of taking the scalp of Virat Kohli too, but this piece of celebratory action came about for the expert manipulator of the seam after the India captain had performed an admirable rescue act and when he went for the big blow.

Kohli was generous in applauding Pakistan’s memorable first win in a World Cup match against its arch-rival. The men in green had beaten India in the ICC Champions Trophy match in the 2017 final at the Oval, London. But it had to still break the jinx in a global event and Babar Azam’s team took the centre stage after winning the toss.

The fascinating twist to the tale can be attributed to a number of reasons. One would be tempted to straightaway ascribe Pakistan’s outstanding display with the ball first and then with the bat to the events that hampered its preparation leading to the competition in the Arabian Gulf.

Pakistan was upset by the withdrawal of New Zealand and England from a short series that would have quenched the thirst of the home fans keen to see its players in action against good international teams. The neighbouring nation was eager to tell the cricketing world that it was a safe place to carry out international sporting activities. One of the statements made by the new PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja urged the team to show its talent and wherewithal at the World Cup here.

Pakistan also took good decisions to appoint Australian achiever Mathew Hayden and South African Vernon Philander as batting and bowling consultants respectively. They had spent quality time imparting knowledge after the conclusion of the IPL. Prior to the World Cup being delayed by one year because of the pandemic, Misbah Ul Haq and Waqar Younis have stepped down as coaches and they were replaced by Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Razzaq. But Raja was smart in getting the professional inputs from

Hayden and Philander.

Hayden had been consistently successful against India’s spinners and he would have spoken at length to the Pakistan batsmen the shots to play against the speedsters Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami and the spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy who played the match and also Ravichandran Ashwin. Philander had been an expert user of the seam and had been prominent in South African wins. So he too would have upgraded the skills of bowlers like Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf snd others.

Another factor that positioned the Pakistan team on a confident frame of mind was playing in the Pakistan Super League in these parts. In as much as the IPL has shaped the careers of many Indian cricketers in the last 15 years, Pakistan’s large talent pool has also benefitted from the PSL which is a Twenty20 tournament with many international players.

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But perhaps the most significant reason for Pakistan’s fine win in the presence of a packed house was that not many of its players were carrying the burden of losers’ baggage against India. In fact, the teams had not played a single Twenty20 match after the 2016 Twenty20 World Cup match in Kolkata.

So, Babar Azam’s team looked at the match with a positive mindset. The team know it had the capabilities to beat India once Afridi gave his side a great start with the ball. What a couple of remarkable deliveries from an expert practitioner of the cricket ball in a Twenty20 match can do and become the game-changer presented itself when Afridi dismissed Sharma and Rahul inside the six-over power play. Thereafter, Azam and Rizwan — Pakistan’s best opening pair called the shots and India was outsmarted and outplayed.

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