“In cricket, small things can make huge differences, was that the turning point for Pakistan? Will Pakistan replicate that magic against India tomorrow? Or was that defeat just a hiccup for India? Too many questions, but one thing is for sure, the rivalry has been revived once again”
Pakistan punched above their weight and left the cricket fraternity bewildered when they made an astounding comeback in the ICC Champions Trophy last year. It was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Pakistan cricket as well as ICC tournaments. After a disheartening defeat in their opening game against India, it seemed Pakistan left no stone unturned in their preparations and punched above their weight to claim the title. Now, what that win in the final against arch-rivals has done for Pakistan? Well, it has certainly revived the rivalry between both the sides; the intensity, the passion, the appetite is back. Before that India had been walking away with big wins.
All world T20s since 2012 have been dominated by India; the World Cup 2015, the Asia Cup 2016, Champions Trophy 2013 and the league game in 2017, India won it all. India vs Pakistan encounter, which is widely reckoned for intensity and competitiveness, was losing its charm, but with Pakistan’s shocking win in the final of CT 2017, the appeal is back and tomorrow’s game should be more intensely contested. India had been carrying the winning momentum for a very long time before Pakistan swung the pendulum in their favour last year. The moment that caused this shift in momentum in that final was the toss and Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball.
Pakistan have a reputation of being vulnerable when it comes to chasing targets and the task becomes stiff for any side in a high-voltage game like final. Despite these facts, India opted to bowl first after getting it right at the toss. Indian bowlers were tightening the noose around Pakistani openers; Bumrah steamed in and induced an edge off Fakhar Zaman’s willow only to be judged as a no-ball once umpire Marais Erasmus asked for a replay. Zaman was struggling on three when Bumrah gave him a new life, and the southpaw made the most of this reprieve by scoring a match-winning 114 off 106 deliveries.
The pressure has in recent years been largely on Pakistan and it has shown in the results, but this time, with the loss in the CT 2017 final, an otherwise relaxed and professional India outfit will be under as much pressure, against a relaxed Pakistan side that truly believe it can beat India.
In a way, Pakistan consistent losses to India before the CT 2017 final are vaguely reminiscent of an underconfident India through the late 80s and 90s (barring the World Cups), where they wouldn’t necessarily turn up thinking they could beat Pakistan and it reflected in their spineless displays through that period.
The final of the Austral-Asia Cup was the turning point for Pakistan in the 80s, after which they dominated ODIs outside World Cups till the late 90s, even till 2001. Javed Miandad smashed a six off the final ball with two runs needed to win and just a solitary wicket in hand to carry Pakistan over the line. It turned out to be a memorable win and one of the folklores in ODI cricket. After that final, Pakistan played 62 games against India till June 2001, winning 45 and losing just 15 with three games concluding no result (excluding the World Cups). Before this final, Pakistan had only won seven out of 16 games against India in ODIs.
Just like how Miandad’s last ball six gave his side immense confidence, that they could beat and even dominate India, and they did, Bumrah’s no-ball and the eventual defeat in the CT 2017 final could give this Pakistan side the same momentum. They have a well-oiled bowling attack and a settled batting coupled with Sarfraz Ahmed’s wily captaincy. They have the ingredients and India, or any other team for that matter can only afford to underestimate them at their own peril. In cricket, small things can make huge differences, was that the turning point for Pakistan? Will Pakistan replicate that magic against India tomorrow? Or was that defeat just a hiccup for India? Too many questions, but one thing is for sure, the rivalry has been revived once again.