India vs Pakistan – much more than just a game
By Anand Philar for Sify
With one stroke, India banished the ghosts of the 2003 final and the fantastic win at Motera virtually ended an era of Aussie dominance. Earlier this year, Ponting’s men lost the Ashes and now the World Cup, but like all great players, Punter left an indelible mark on the tournament with a century in what probably was his last CWC game.
While we rejoice the Indian win, let us show some grace and salute the Aussies for their achievements on the field that, sadly, has been sullied by the behaviour of some of the players. The sheer outpouring of emotions by Yuvraj and Raina after the winning boundary hit was indicative of the value the Indian team attaches to any win against the Aussies. Yes, it is always special to beat a top side even if it is on its way down.
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If anybody thought Australia are the favourites to win the Cup, then such presumption was based on the team’s track record of three consecutive triumphs, two of them under Ponting’s captaincy. As it turned out, pace, hitherto Australia’s biggest weapon, was unable to deliver and the absence of a quality spinner, much less a pair of them, eventually hurt them far more than their opponents.
On a Motera pitch that was on the slower side and assisting spin, the Aussies went at the Indians with a bevy of fast bowlers hoping to exploit the well-known weakness against the rising delivery. It was a ploy that boomeranged on the Aussies whose lone specialist spinner Krejza was just about club standard.
The fact that the three Aussie slow bowlers Krejza, Clarke and Hussey, sent down only 17 overs as against 33 by their Indian counterparts accurately reflects the difference in approach of the two teams. I feel that proved to be the decisive factor.
I am sure, Ponting would have given his arm to have a Shane Warne bowling during the Yuvraj-Raina partnership that eventually turned the game around for India or for that matter a Hayden or Gilchrist to light up their fragile batting.
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So, having lost to the two top sub-continental sides, Pakistan (in the league phase) and India, the Aussies return home well and truly beaten, leaving the two neighbours in a face-off at Mohali next week.
Although the Pakistanis also have beaten the Aussies, the Indian win came under far greater pressure and in a knock-out situation that offered no safety net. As such, I would rate the Motera win much higher than the one in Colombo where the Aussies fell for 176 to Pakistani spinners.
Of course, all that is history now that India and Pakistan clash at Mohali in a game that can be equated to a Brazil vs Argentina football game in terms of interest, rivalry and of course, the immense pressure on the teams to deliver.
For all that, I will still back India who I feel are better equipped than Pakistan, be it in batting or bowling with the teams being on par at fielding. The spin quotient virtually gets negated since it is a staple diet for the rival batsmen while it is not as if the two teams have a Lee or a Tait or a Johnson in their ranks to trouble anyone with searing pace. It is India’s superior batting line-up that could well tilt the scales.
Further, it will also boil down to the collective character and resilience to withstand the pressure of expectations. I have covered more than my share of Indo-Pak sporting encounters in some of the major sports to say that the levels of passion and emotions among the rival players defy words. You have to be in it to know it.
Since the rivalry between the two neighbours transcends sports and given the historical political enmity (never mind the diplomatic mumbo-jumbo to the contrary), even a sporting victory or defeat that is a mere pinhead in the big picture of life, triggers mass euphoria as if it were a Kargil.
The players themselves might not admit it in public, but the irrefutable fact is the adrenaline rush is greater and the emotions are on the boil among the contestants. It will never be ”just another game” regardless of at what stage the two teams meet and it being a World Cup semi-final, one can imagine the pressure on the players.
World Cup 2011
Under the circumstances, the saying that cricket is played more in the mind than on the field cannot be any truer in an Indo-Pak contest. We have said this before, but needs to be reiterated that ultimately, the team that blinks first will lose. The cricketing aspects such as team combination, technique, strategy and what have you, are secondary.
In effect, the stakes, like it or not, admit it or not, are much more than cricketing gains or losses. So, tighten your seatbelts and on to Mohali!