MS Dhoni’s India see history repeat itself against Pakistan at the cricket World Cup

It became apparent that the chosen method was once again going to be bang, bang or bust. In the space of nine deliveries, Pakistan lurched from 102 for two to 103 for five.

Pakistan opener Ahmed Shehzad did not score from 49 balls and then got out to a reckless shot to India’s Umesh Yadav. James Elsby / AP Photo
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The more things change, the more cricket history seems to repeat itself. Pinch-hitters have come and gone, switch-hits have been played, and the reverse sweep – if you go by what Glenn Maxwell says – is now part of a batsman’s repertoire.

In such tumultuous times, the one thing almost as predictable as sunrise in the east is Pakistan’s penchant for squandering opportunities in World Cup matches against India.

Outside the biggest stage, the two teams have met 117 times, with Pakistan victorious in 72 of those matches. At the World Cup, it is 6-0 to India.

Pakistan have had to chase targets in five of those six games. On four occasions, they have started well only to limp to the line after a spectacular mid-innings implosion.

It is not that India have not bowled well in these matches. Their bowlers seem to find an extra yard of pace when they play Pakistan, but they have undoubtedly been helped by shot selection ranging from bizarre to daft.

At Sydney in 1992, Pakistan were chasing 217 and handily placed at 105 for two, when Aamer Sohail sauntered down the pitch to Sachin Tendulkar and cracked a low full toss straight to Krishnamachari Srikkanth at short midwicket. From there, they slumped to 141 for seven and 173 all out.

Four years later, Sohail had cruised to 55 from 45 balls, and Pakistan to 113 for one, when he appeared to tell Venkatesh Prasad to fetch the ball from the boundary.

The next delivery sent his off stump out of the ground. Pakistan collapsed to 132 for four and eventually fell 39 short.

At Mohali in 2011, they were 70 for one when Mohammad Hafeez attempted a paddle sweep to a pace bowler, Munaf Patel.

MS Dhoni caught the edge behind the stumps and Pakistan were soon 106 for four. They would fall 29 runs short of a place in the final.

In Adelaide, despite losing Younis Khan early, Pakistan started decently enough.

Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail struck some lovely shots, but their inability to turn the strike over meant that Dhoni’s bowlers could settle into a groove.

Once Ravichandran Ashwin started with two maidens in his first three overs – having Sohail caught at slip off the last ball of the third – it became apparent that the chosen method was once again going to be bang, bang or bust.

In the space of nine deliveries, Pakistan lurched from 102 for two to 103 for five.

Misbah-ul-Haq reprised his boy-on-burning-deck act from 2011, while Shahid Afridi briefly did his quixotic-windmill thing, but the last 10 overs were embarrassingly one-sided.

That the match as a whole was not owed much to Sohail Khan and Wahab Riaz, who bowled splendidly in the last five overs [5-27], restricting India to 300 for seven. If you look at Shehzad, it is fairly obvious that he wants to be Pakistan’s answer to Kohli – designer stubble, cool threads, selfies and all.

But Kohli, as he showed on Sunday, can shelve his ego and bat smart, according to the circumstances. Shehzad had 49 dot balls in the 73 that he faced. Suresh Raina had just 18 in his 56-ball 74. Games are won and lost on such details. As far as the bigger picture goes, this result means little.

It just enhances India’s chances of avoiding Australia or New Zealand in the last eight.

Pakistan will regroup, with Yasir Shah likely to enjoy much more success against batsmen less adept than Kohli and Raina.

Amid the hype and hysteria – CNN claimed that a billion people were following the game – it was Dhoni, as ever, that spoke the most sense.

“The record [6-0] is good, but it’s something that I don’t want to get into because there will come a time when we will lose, irrespective of whether it happens this World Cup, next World Cup or four World Cups down the line,” he said.

Dileep Premachandran is Editor-in-chief of Wisden India.

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