Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ICC World Cup 2015: Pakistan vs India Post Match Thoughts

Another World Cup. Another match against India. Another loss. A 5-0 record that had been spoken about endlessly before Pakistan's opening game of this World Cup now reads India 6, Pakistan 0. It is not a good reading for Pakistan fans, even though they can smile about the fact that Pakistan has won significantly more games than India in the history of ODI cricket between the two sides. For some reason, when it comes to World Cups, it just doesn't work for the Greens.

300 might be a daunting total, but on a flat Adelaide pitch with smallish boundaries, it was definitely chaseable. Pakistan lost the game when they lost 3 wickets for 1 run in 8 deliveries during the middle of their chase. Good catching by the Indians and misfortune combined to end a million Pakistani dreams. Yet Pakistan fans must not lose heart, for this is just the start of the World Cup and it has been proven in the past that a loss to India means nothing in the grander scheme of things. 

The bookmakers though remain unfazed by the result of this first game with Pakistan still remaining at 22/1 to win the tournament outright and India sticking at 8/1, which are the same prices as when the tournament began. Things are likely to change in the market after the second round of matches (especially if Pakistan fail to beat the West Indies).

Odds taken from Bet365 - if you're planning to join read this review to find out what's on offer.

Here are my 5 key post match thoughts.

1. Sohail Khan lived up to his word and proved everyone wrong

The biggest silver lining for Pakistan was Sohail Khan's heartening performance. Sohail received plenty of criticism due to his performances, or rather the lack of, in the matches leading up to this World Cup. The general perception had become that the pace bowler from Karachi was all talk and no action.

However, he was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers against India, and lived up to his word of attacking the Indian batsmen and picking up the coveted wicket of Virat Kohli, whom Sohail had openly targeted before the match.

Sohail Khan became the first Pakistani bowler to pick up a 5 wicket haul in his first World Cup match, and only the third bowler to pick up a 5 wicket haul in a Pakistan vs India World Cup match.

2. Virat Kohli Proves why he is one of the best

The difference between the two teams in my opinion was Virat Kohli. He played a completely unnatural innings and held it together for India. It was not a typical all guns blazing Kohli innings but a more sedate and responsible innings, which was the need of the hour in a crunch game for India. One must remember that Kohli was woefully out of form going into this game and he had not performed at all in the ODIs India played in Australia for their World Cup build up.

But Kohli showed why he is India's and the world's best and brought his best to open India's World Cup campaign with a bang.

Kohli became the first Indian batsman to score a century in a World Cup game against Pakistan. Prior to this game, India's best individual score was Sachin Tendulkar's 98 at Centurion in 2003. Kohli's 107 is now also the highest individual score by any batsman from either side in a Pakistan vs India World Cup match.

3. Pakistan's Spin Twins Fail

Pakistan had high hopes from Yasir Shah who has been in wicket taking form since the beginning of the season. There is definitely something about Yasir, who is regarded by Shane Warne as the best leg spinner in the world currently; but he failed to deliver today. He was Pakistan's most expensive bowler in the game with his 8 overs going for 60 runs. Much was expected from Shahid Afridi as well who was supposed to be Pakistan's ace given the lack of experience of Pakistan's pacers. But he too failed with the ball.

Perhaps, everyone forgot how good Indian batsmen are against spin. Pakistan's 20 overs of spin, 8 each from Yasir and Afridi and 4 from Haris, cost them 136 runs and got them no wickets. While their 30 overs of pace resulted in 6 wickets for just 162 runs.

4. How long will Pakistan persist with Younis Khan?

I fail to understand what Pakistan's fascination with Younis Khan is. Everyone knows that he is a world class test batsman. The world's best in my opinion. But everyone one also knows that he is an utter failure as an ODI batsman. He was not supposed to be a part of Pakistan's World Cup plans, yet a public outburst and a significant amount of test runs, resulted in his inclusion at the completely unfair expense of Fawad Alam.

Fine, he made it into the squad, but why is Pakistan persisting with him in the playing XI when he is continuously failing. Pakistan's middle order of Haris Sohail, Misbah Ul Haq, Sohaib Maqsood, and Umar Akmal pretty much selected themselves. Yet Pakistan were so desperate to include Younis Khan in the XI that he was asked to open, a role that he has never done internationally or domestically. That too in a World Cup match.

I wonder what Pakistan would have done if Hafeez was still around. How would they have fit in Younis Khan then?

With Sarfraz Ahmed and Nasir Jamshed, two batsman who have opened for Pakistan, on the bench, it made absolutely no sense to open with Younis Khan. The reason given for dropping Sarfraz from the XI was that he has been unable to score runs in NZ and Australia in the build up to the World Cup. Well how many runs has Younis Khan scored?

Opting for Younis over Sarfraz meant that not only were Pakistan already playing with one wicket down, they also lost their specialist wicket keeper. Sure Sarfraz has lost a bit of form in new conditions, but he is a valuable player. He can take the attack to the opposition, and is also a safer bet behind the stumps than Umar Akmal.

If Pakistan are serious about this World Cup then they need to get their XI right and they need to stop reeling under the pressure from a senior player who insists on playing with total disregard to what is good for the team. If Shahid Afridi could drop Shoaib Akhtar during the World Cup in 2011, there is no reason why Misbah Ul Haq cannot do the same to Younis Khan.

5. Umar Akmal does not deserve criticism

Umar Akmal was the last of the three wickets that Pakistan lost in the span of 8 deliveries and he has been severely criticized; not only for getting out for a duck, but also for dropping Virat Kohli when he was on 76. I don't think Kohli's drop at that stage made much of a difference; India would have still got to 300 had they lost Kohli then.

Regarding U Akmal's batting; I have said it before and I will say it again, he is a proven performer. He played crucial knocks, 39 off 41 and 65 off 66, in both of Pakistan's successful chases in the warm up matches against Bangladesh and England respectively. He has consistently scored runs for Pakistan in limited overs cricket, and he will continue to do so.

On top of all that, I also believe that he got a harsh decision. The snicko hardly moved from its baseline. I am not sure what Steve Davis saw and how he thought that the evidence on screen was conclusive enough to overturn the on field umpire's decision. When the big screen showed "OUT", it shocked not only the viewers, but also the commentators. It was a shocking decision in my opinion.

As I mentioned in the beginning, a loss to India means nothing in the grander scheme of things. Pakistan lost to them in 1992 yet won the World Cup. They lost to them in 1999 yet played the Final. They lost to them in the Asia Cup in 2012 yet won the Asia Cup title. They beat them in the Asia Cup in 2014 but lost the Asia Cup Final.

The tournament has just begun and Pakistan's campaign has a long road ahead. With a little bit of tweaking of the XI, the Greens can rise again. 

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  1. Tazul I. said...

    Great thoughts and about the Virat Kohli you are absolutely correct and he showed his performance again on the match of Pakistan Vs India. He hits 107 runs in the match.

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