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'Pak'ing a punch

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Mohammad_Amir_Pakistan_cricketAll Signs Point Towards an Indian Victory” was the article at the top of the homepage when I started penning this down. ‘All signs’. Signs can, of course, be misleading. Quite like a direction signpost turned the other way by a miscreant seeking fun at the expense of others.

I got almost-sickening messages on WhatsApp, created someplace and forwarded a hundred times, in which I sensed a feeling of haughty overconfidence, the kind Trump shows in his speeches telecast on CNN. They seemed childish and puerile to me, and not in the spirit of the gentleman’s game.

Respect for the opponent is a good sign – here not a misleading one – and better so, for the sport which was called the gentleman’s game once upon a time, till the thing called Jardine and Bodyline happened to Test cricket.

The pressure on the Indians was palpable, while the Pakitanis, as Sarfaraz said in his post-match talk with Nasser Hussein, had nothing to lose. This reminded me in a way of India’s win in the 1983 World Cup final, which Kapil’s Devils registered against the top-ranked West Indians. Pakistan was ranked number 8 out of 8 teams participating when the tournament started. Eight catapulted itself to One in the end.

It was also good to see the Pakistani cricketers go down on their knees and express their thanksgiving to God, and the graciousness with which they presented themselves after the match. This is the month of Ramadhan and that makes it even more fitting that their hard work and faith in themselves and God must bear fruit in this wonderful manner.

Kudos to the team which suddenly looked depleted after Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq announced their retirement recently and Nasir Jamshed was injured in the T20 series against the West Indies. But what an entry and entrenchment we saw from Fakhar Zaman! Where was he all these years, is a common question which has been asked by many cricket writers – both on HW and other magazines.

If Fakhar stood out and deserved all the praise that was heaped on him, hats off to India’s own Hardik Pandya who, if not exactly a ray of hope, displayed his amazing talent which the Indians can tap into for many years to come. Clean hits came off his willow…all of them perfectly timed. It must be pointed out that he was not out missing the ball and being stumped, mistiming it and holing out or missing it and having himself castled. He was run out and the blame must be fully heaped on Jadeja, who could well have sacrificed his own wicket. Perhaps Pandya in the company of Ashwin and Bhuvi would have got to a century in the end, fighting on for many more overs.

Well, everyone would say Rohit Sharma was careless, or Kohli looked lacklustre and so on. Pause and give credit to the excellent bowling by the comeback-bowler Mohammed Amir. Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali, the latter winning the Golden Ball and the Man of the Tournament Award in the end, capitalised on the inroads made by Amir.

Could Yuvraj have proven his mettle? Could Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni have added over a hundred runs at least between themselves? Well…yes, all these were surely possible. But it was Pakistan’s day. Things were bound to go their way, from the moment Fakhar Zaman was caught behind off a big no-ball from Jasprit Bumrah. Later on, Hafeez was ‘bowled’ by Bumrah but the bail did not come off.

As things rolled on, Shadab decided to ask for a review against Yurvraj Singh, purely on gut instinct, and got it right. Fakhar made the most of the life he got off the no-ball, but Kohli, after having been dropped at Slips, mistimed the next ball right into Shadab’s safe hands at point.

Surely, all this goes to show that cricket is an unpredictable game indeed. It all boils down to the minutiae of the day on which a match is played. Twenty two different fates, bunched into two groups…which group is stronger; when talent, experience, form and luck (rain can be considered as a sub-crietrion here if one would wish to do so) are taken together as criteria, perhaps with a greater weightage being given to the last-named. After all, were not the Aussies damn unlucky….they could heap all blame on the weather Gods, and I would support them there.

The defending champions were made to bite the dust on the 18th of June 2017. Eaxctly a week before the 34th anniversary of their startling win against the West Indians in the 1983 Prudential World Cup. Kohli’s grace as the losing skipper when he spoke to Hussein was admirable, though of course we do not know how he reacted in the dressing room. ‘We take it on our chain and move onward.’ Quotable quote, it may turn out to be, fifity years from now.

The question to be asked now is: Would this loss efface all the good which has happened under Kumble’s ‘tutelage’ over the last 12 months? Will Anil continue as coach, or will it be someone else? If it has been a case of personality clashes, as many make it out to be, what is the guarantee that we may not have an encore with a new coach? Was this loss because of some things souring on this front? Cricketers are also human beings after all.

Analyses can go on…but for now, let us congratulate our neighbours on their resilience and resurgence. This is good indeed for world cricket….with the West Indians sadly going down into the dumps, a Pakistani resurgence is most welcome. Ditto the Afghans.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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