Without taking anything away from India’s inspired performance last night, was there more to the World Cup semifinal that what met the eye?
The match between arch rivals turned out to be full of surprises and thrill and just as the pundits predicted the team that kept its nerves ended up booking a date with Sri Lanka. But the manner in which Pakistan fielded and later absent mindedly batted makes one wonder that perhaps our neighbors weren’t so keen on winning the match after all.
The big temperamental difference between the two teams in the build-up to the match was that while India wanted to win the match and the World Cup, Pakistan came across as being interested in only beating India. This was clear from the statements of the two captains as well as anyone who was asked a question with regards to the match.
But from the moment the game started at Mohali Pakistan was strangely looking to lose the match. Their fielding, dropping Sachin Tendulkar 4 times, made it look as if they wanted India to score 350 plus runs and then lose the chase ‘gracefully’. This wasn’t improbable keeping in mind the fashion in which Virender Sehwag was hammering Umar Gul all over but then in the 260 proved to be a tad too much for the Men in Green.
In a rare display of tenacity it was the Indian bowling that ended up saving the day. Keeping the tension in mind a lot of big names started feeling the heat but strange as it many sound the quarters which weren’t expected to deliver much ended up making all the difference. Barring Sehwag and Suresh Raina most of the India batting line-up ended up deviating from their natural game and similarly it was Wahab Riaz and Ajmal who lead the Pakistan’s attack in place of Gul and Afridi.
No matter how the pitch behaved 260 is never a big total in a post T-20 world and a lot depended on the Indian bowling.
MS Dhoni who later confessed that he had misread the pitch could have used R Ashwin much like the untried weapon against Pakistan just like they unleashed Riaz and Ajmal, who created a lot of trouble for Tendulkar. Keeping the basics in mind the Indian bowling was tight and the fact that the first extra was conceded in over number 37 speaks volumes. Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan today match prediction head to head, aided by Ashish Nehra provided great support to the slower ones of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. India’s fielding too was many shades better than Pakistan’s and turned the tide but there’s a lot that can be improved. Sri Lank’s fielding has been always rated a few notches above India’s and if India wants to win the final images of Harbhajan refusing to chase a few, Zaheer not running enough in the deep to catch the ball that fell a few paces ahead of him and Nehra botching up Afridi’s catch shouldn’t be repeated.
But still nothing can explain the manner in which Pakistan approached their chase. At 70 for 1 the start was pretty good but why were Younis Khan and Misbah-Ul-Haq behaving as if this were a test match? The goof-up with the batting power play and Shahid Afridi striding in at 7 down suggested that something was fishy. Had Hafeez Saeed and Umar Akmal giving regular support from Khan, Misbah and Afridi they could have easily sailed through but perhaps Wednesday was India’s day and India’s night.