Pakistan thrashed India by 10 wickets in their T20 World Cup2021 fixture in Dubai on Sunday. Here are our five takeaways from the match.
1- Nothing lasts forever
In sports and everything, unless it's a law or a principle, nothing lasts forever. Dominant teams, serial winners, unbeaten players — all eventually meet their match or are caught on their off day someday. For disappointed Pakistani fans to think their team would never beat India in a World Cup match was wrong. And for Indians fans to think their team would never lose to Pakistan in a World Cup fixture was also wrong.
All trends, all hoodoos, all everything come to an end if you stay in the business long enough. One thing that is known to happen when one team breaks a psychological barrier or gets the proverbial monkey off their backs is a streak in the other direction. Could that happen here? Could Pakistan now begin a streak of their own against India? We'd find that out in the T20 World Cup next year — or even in the World Cup final of the ongoing tournament.
2- A victory constructed by superstars
This current crop of Pakistan team has three clear superstars. One is Babar Azam, next is Mohammad Rizwan and then comes Shaheen Afridi. All three delivered last night. It was Shaheen's double-wicket salvo up top that put India on the backfoot early and set the tone for the entire match. Then, Babar and Rizwan batted from start to finish to make the chase appear as a cakewalk.
There are other talents around them but the spine of this Pakistan team is formed by a batsman, a wicketkeeper and a pacer. These are the three we look for inspiration, bailouts and breakthroughs. What we get from them is our right. What we get from others is a bonus. This and many more Pakistan squads should revolve around the core of Babar, Rizwan and Shaheen. This game had its unsung heroes in Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan but the Fab 3 were in a league of their own.
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3- Babar, Rizwan emphasise importance of strike rotation, fitness
Of the 152 runs scored by Pakistan, only 78 came off boundaries. The pairing of Babar and Rizwan had to run for 71 runs, while four runs came from wides. This shows that despite the perception around it, T20 matches are not all about boundaries. The old-fashioned running for runs also does it. Of course, you need super-fit batsmen to do that, and fortunately, Babar and Rizwan's conditioning was superb.
4- Kohli's team selection
One player in or out would not have made a difference as India were dominating in all facets of the game but even then it needs a mention. Hardik Pandya's continued existence in this Indian line-up has to be one of the weirdest selections around. He is someone billed as an allrounder but does not bat, which renders him exactly what? A specialist batsman for the number seven position?
Kohli's insistence of sticking with Pandya for reasons unknown instead of picking the in-form Ishan Kishan made little sense, and for which he'd be deservedly panned.
5- Pakistan needed this
With apologies to India, Pakistan fans deserved and needed this one much more. There is a mob heading towards the national capital, there are signs indicating a civil-military rift, a 'petrol bomb' was recently dropped, electricity rates have gone through the roof, a gas crisis is on the horizon, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) just wouldn't let us go, and there is trouble brewing in neighbouring Afghanistan. In the midst of all that, the win over India allows the entire country to forget the troubles of their routine life.
For a few days at least, Pakistan cricket fans would wake up feeling content and happy with their lives, for they've already won the World Cup match they wanted to win. The actual World Cup does not matter anymore and would be a bonus if it actually is clinched.
The header photo shows Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi. — Photo courtesy PCB Twitter