India v Pakistan talking points: A Cricket World Cup game between professionals and amateurs

After India claimed their seventh Cricket World Cup win over Pakistan on Sunday, here are some key talking points from Old Trafford

India bowler Kuldeep Yadav celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Babar Azam during the Cricket World Cup match at Old Trafford. Reuters
India bowler Kuldeep Yadav celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Babar Azam during the Cricket World Cup match at Old Trafford. Reuters

This rivalry is no longer fun

India have won 10 of the 15 matches they have played against Pakistan during the past 10 years, and seven of them were not even close. Even Pakistan’s most memorable win against their rivals during this period was a one-sided match – the Champions Trophy final at the Oval in 2017. You have to go back five years for the last nail-biter (it was an Asia Cup match in Dhaka, which Pakistan won by one wicket).

This then begs the question: is India v Pakistan even a rivalry anymore?

The political tensions between the neighbours and the baggage of history and culture will continue to help the powers that run the game to extract whatever mileage they can get from the tie. But let us face it: cricket wise, India have left Pakistan far behind. Sure, Pakistan got their selection and tactics wrong at Old Trafford, but this was a game played between a team of professionals and an amateur side.

The onset of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition has catapulted the men in blue to a whole new level in every respect, from fitness to mental toughness to the quality of cricket being played, even as the Pakistan Super League struggles to catch up. And as long as there is that gulf, India will always be the superior team.

India won without key players

Virat Kohli's team will have taken plenty of positives from Sunday’s game.

For one, their sheer domination over Pakistan in all three departments of the game makes them dangerous opponents for more evolved sides such as England and Australia (should they meet again) at the business end of the tournament.

That India won so easily in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who fractured his thumb in the Australia game, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who injured his hamstring after bowling two and some overs, is even more impressive.

KL Rahul filled the opener’s slot seamlessly, scoring a fifty, while Vijay Shankar – a dibbly-dobbly medium pacer at best – took two wickets. And in all probability, Bhuvneshwar will be replaced by the just-as experienced and in-form Mohammed Shami for the next game.

In other words, India seem to have found a way to win even without their big names. They can scarcely afford another major injury, but for now, at least they have proved bench strength.

Pakistan will not repeat ’92 feat

The parallels between Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup campaign and their current one may be giving them hopes of a repeat (they lifted the trophy 27 years ago).

In ‘92, they began by losing to the West Indies before beating Zimbabwe and watching helplessly as their third match – against England – was rained off. In 2019, they began by losing to the West Indies before beating England and watching helplessly as their third match – against Sri Lanka – was rained off. They lost to India in both editions, and they find themselves under the pump right now – just as they did in ’92.

Oh, and both tournaments coincided with Ramadan.

Does this mean Pakistan have a chance to reach the semi-finals? Mathematically, yes. But they are more likely to muddle through their remaining fixtures and, perhaps, even come close to qualification. But in the end, they will come up short.

The reasons are straightforward: this Pakistan side lacks the X-factor that some other teams rely on to change the course of a game. The Class of ’92 was something else, but more crucially Sarfaraz Ahmed is no Imran Khan – one of the most inspirational figures the game has ever seen.


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Pakistan win – on Twitter

Have Pakistan fans developed a sense of humour? Possibly. After all, poor performances by a team on an extended basis can help bring about self-deprecation among some of its followers.

Former Pakistan fast bowler Aaqib Javed once conceded fearing the consequences of defeat to India in the 1990s, to the extent he and his teammates dared not to venture out of their homes in the aftermath of their 1996 World Cup quarter-final loss in Bangalore.

However, because the rivalry is not what it once was – given India's recent dominance over their neighbours – it looks like some of their supporters have grown a funny bone. If you look online, you will find several instances on social media of fans making light of the hammering their team received at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Interestingly, just as failure can uplift people, success can make them arrogant and insufferable. India fans must take heed lest they fall into the ‘taking oneself and one’s team too seriously’ trap.

Updated: June 17, 2019 09:13 PM


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