For the 9th time since 1992, Pakistan failed to beat their arch rivals in an ICC World Cup tournament. The count is now 5-0 in ODIs (1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2011) and 4-0 in T20s (2007- twice, 2010, 2012, 2014).
When Roger Federer is asked about his singularly poor record against Rafael Nadal over the year, the Champion insists that it isn’t a mental issue, and that it is only because both play at such high levels against each other. He therefore feels that it is only a coincidence.
His fans know better. They know that half the match is lost as soon as Federer sees who is across the net. Nadal’s vicious top-spinning groundstrokes bring out the worst in Federer’s backhand, and even if it doesn’t, Federer is scarred enough to be rolled over.
Similarly, the mercurial Pakistan cricket team is more susceptible to mental penetration. They have always been that way, often fighting a lone battle against themselves. I fail to understand why it is India that brings out the worst of them in World Cups, but this seems like perfect payback for Indian fans that had long suffered at their rivals’ hands for two decades.
At Mirpur on Friday, Captain Hafeez started their innings in such a way that if he didn’t play through the innings, he’d be a villain. He adopted the Rohit Sharma strategy, of playing dots and ‘seeing himself in’, forgetting that the Indian maverick is often known for his lack of temperament at the top. Hafeez’ side was never in the game, struggling and tottering to 130 in 20 overs, after losing wickets at regular intervals. It began with a classic run-out, before Amit Mishra returned to haunt them on his favorite pitch.
130 was never going to challenge an Indian batting line-up that stretched till no.8. The top 2 were expected to fail, but they put on 50 in 8 overs to set the platform up for Kohli and Raina. Yuvraj’s wicket rang the alarm bells more for the way he got out, rather than why he did. He played across the line stuck between front and back foot play to a ball homing in on his off-stump to new bowler Bhatti. His reflexes have slowed over the years, but this dismissal was damning.
However, Raina was his usual consistent self in T20s, and has visibly changed his batting stance, much like Rohit Sharma did when he began to open the innings. He has begun to wave his bat in the air before receiving the ball (like Aamir Sohail), giving him extra time to get under the ball while pulling or hooking—which is always on his mind. It gives him littler time to get the bat down to dig out a Yorker, but he trusts his reflexes enough to do that, or to swipe over midwicket (his favorite shot). Could this bring him back into the ODI squad? Time (IPL) will tell.
India won with 7 wickets and more than an over to spare. It was comfortable and comprehensive, making Pakistan’s game against Australia on Sunday even more crucial. India play World Champions West Indies, and will do well to expect another mentally fragile but explosive lineup.