‘Hats off’: Great rivals India and Pakistan find mutual admiration in Virat Kohli and Mohammed Amir

This is supposed to be the fieriest rivalry in cricket. India and Pakistan do not meet often in their shared favourite pastime anymore. When they do, it tends to be seismic. Tension is acute, Paul Radley writes from Dhaka.

Pakistan's Mohammad Samir, left, reacts after the dismissal of India's Virat Kohli during the Asia Cup T20 cricket tournament match between India and Pakistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on February 27, 2016. India trounced bitter rivals Pakistan by five wickets in a one-sided affair at the Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament. AFP
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DHAKA // This is supposed to be the fieriest rivalry in cricket, maybe even all of sport. India and Pakistan do not meet often in their shared favourite pastime anymore. When they do, it tends to be seismic. Tension is acute.

Even amongst the Bangladeshis who swelled the attendance to full capacity at the National Stadium in Mirpur, there was no such thing as a neutral.

Pakistan had the biggest volume of support. Their subsequent five-wicket demise against their old foes was keenly felt, especially seeing as their side never realistically threatened.

And through it all, a show of respect, from one young wonder-kid famed for feistiness and fruity language, as well as supreme talent, to another who is on his way back from the heaviest of all falls.

Read more from Radley in Dhaka: So much for PSL effect: Tragicomic Pakistan cut to shreds by India at Asia Cup

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Forget about the millions of people watching, with all that national pride at stake. The exchange between Virat Kohli, the match-winner for India, and Mohammed Amir, who refused to concede defeat for Pakistan, was a throw back to the village green. They might as well have had a break for cucumber sandwiches and shared some tiffins.

“International cricket is about learning from your mistakes, I made a few mistakes last time we played,” Kohli said of his watchful, and decisive, innings of 49.

“I decided to dig in, stay and the wicket, as I knew I would get a few balls to get set, but I would like to compliment Mohammed Amir on the way he bowled.

“I actually congratulated him while I was batting. I was so, so happy to play against that kind of spell. I have always said he is a world-class bowler. Hats off to the way he bowled and God bless him with more success.”

Pakistan would have been nothing without Amir, having caved for a paltry total of 83. His first over in reply was stunning.

He accounted for Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, each without scoring, and troubled both Kohli and Suresh Raina, too. When he did dismiss Raina in the third over, India were eight for three and struggling badly to repel his onslaught.

Kohli’s effort in guiding the Indians through the troubles and to the point of victory was a triumph for his game-management skills, in a match that did not include a single six.

The situation did not require the sort of lavish strokeplay that is his trademark, so he evoked the spirit of Geoffrey Boycott instead. He dug in.

MS Dhoni, India’s captain, thought Kohli had been unlucky to be given out on 49. He suggested the fact the umpires now wear earpieces had contributed to the official failing to detect the inside edge on the LBW he upheld for Mohammed Sami.

Still, though, Dhoni was pleased with the final result. “The conditions were tough and you have to give credit to Amir,” Dhoni, who hit the winning runs, said.

“You only celebrate once you’ve got the number of runs that were needed. We weren’t thinking 84 would be easy because we had seen the conditions.”

Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, said it was impossible to apportion blame for his side’s collapse, given everyone was culpable. “When you lose six wickets in the first seven overs, who can you blame?” he said.

He reserved praise for Amir, though, as he took another step along the road to retribution after his return following five years out for spot-fixing.

“It was his own fault so we can’t cry about it,” Waqar said of Amir’s extended absence.

“He is coming back, getting stronger and stronger, and better and better. He will be a big asset for Pakistan cricket for the next few years.”


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