Thursday, March 31, 2011

India Beats a Suicidal Pakistan - A Matter of Belief

High pressure games are a matter of belief. Dhoni does not let the past or the future affect him. He stays in the present and trusts his players to do their job. Easier said than done - this trust business. And like he said after the match - "This campaign, we backed each other fully". Wonderful stuff. How else can you rely on someone like Yuvraj to provide crucial breakthroughs all through this tournament? Which captain in the world would have used Yuvraj to get him these breakthroughs? No one.

Afridi is another guy who does not get affected by all that goes around him as you can see on his face. His only issue is that he carries the baggage of his past. He and his team believe that they cannot chase - a give away from the great Wasim Akram. Now that was news to me because never was India comfortable against Pakistan until the last wickets fell - not since Sharjah when Miandad carted Chetan Sharma over midwicket for a famous six. But Pakistan it appears has more ghosts to carry than India. Each to his own belief! Two teams then, or rather two nations then, that do not believe until it is all over. Good we have a captain who does not subscribe to these beliefs.

As for the match, India looked good for 300 and lost their way really badly that we were struggling to make 250! But thankfully India lost wickets not to bad batting. India lots their way thanks to some unbelievably high quality bowling by Wahab Riaz, the best I have seen in many years, backed by Afridi, Hafeez and Ajmal. Thank god, Umar Gul had an off day! Each of Wahab's wickets were prised out - as Majrekar said - most on defensive shots. Sehwag, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni and he kept beating Tendulkar well into he late overs. Fantastic bowling! He is my man of the match just for that display!

But then, how often can you expect to win a World Cup semi final when you drop six catches - four easy ones off the best batsman in the world? Not often. In fact Pakistan should have got routed just for dropping so many catches but to Pakistan's credit, they started as 52:48 favorites at the start of the innings which gradually grew to 70:30 when Hafeez and Asad Shafiq were batting so comfortably before they all got into hara kiri mode and threw it away. That is Pakistan for you! Kamran Akamal threw it away when he was batting so well, so did Hafeez, Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan. Umar Akmal's breathtaking innings came to and end with a beauty just as Razzaq's did. But then Afridi threw his wicket away, never took the powerplay and in the end, Pakistan came within striking range. With so many mistakes, it is a wonder they came that close. That is unpredictability for you, raw talent. Now they need to hone it in with some trained thought, an organised approach to get the big games. The world is moving on and even they need to if they want to capitalise on the talent they have.

Anyway on to Mumbai for India where India start firm favourites in an evenly balanced contest. Even better than the Australia match because Lanka plays spin better on these wickets. It will be in my opinion a matter of how well the Lankan batting bats. They have a good bowling side which is marginally better than India's and a better fielding side. If their batting does not collapse as it did against the Kiwis in the semis - which is possible only if they bat first (they do not have the nerves to bat second in my opinion), then they can put some pressure on India. If India bats first and continues its present form, I expect it to ride home at a canter!

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