Pakistan were blown out of water by India in their Asia Cup 2023 Super Four match in Colombo on Monday. Here are our five takeaways from that lopsided loss.
Reverse Midas touch
And just like that, the superheroes, the invincibles, the world beaters suddenly appear Sunday leaguers, punching bags and amateurs.
Remember that Nasser Hussain quote about Pakistan cricket? “One minute down, next minute up?” This is that minute down he was talking about.
There was no reason for Babar Azam’s men to melt like they did against India over two days, and yet they did. They bowled badly, fielded horrendously, but saved their absolute vintage worst for the last and got bundled out for a mere 128 chasing 356.
In hindsight, even the call to bowl first proved wrong. The only thing they did right was Shaheen Afridi’s gift for Jasprit Bumrah.
It was two of those days when the Green Shirts had the reverse Midas touch. Everything they touched turned to trash.
Much has been said about this current crop’s improved mental toughness so those peddling that theory have some explaining to do.
Save your knee-jerk reactions
That said, it also doesn’t mean there need to be knee-jerk reactions and mass hysteria. Apart from cricket, our favourite national sport at times can be taking deep dives into a giant pool of self-loathing.
Anyone can have a very bad one game. An off day at work is not unheard of in the world of sports. If the ferocious Mike Tyson can be humbled by Buster Douglas, if Rafael Nadal can be bested on clay, and if prime Barca can be beaten by Rubin Kazan, then surely anything can happen in sports on a given day.
One bad result did not make any of these bad at what they did, which also stays true for this Pakistan side, which has consistently delivered results over the past few years.
One bad match does not make Babar and Co a bad team. If there’s only one takeaway, this can serve as their wake-up call and enhance their experience. Next time, if these two meet in the final, Green Shirts will know that they cannot play any worse. The only way is up from here.
Imad was missed
Yes, random meltdowns can’t be predicted but their frequency can be minimised by opting for players who do not get fazed no matter what the situation.
One such name that comes to mind is Imad Wasim, who is known for his mental fortitude and has gotten Pakistan out of difficult conditions on more than one occasion.
His miserly wicket-to-wicket left-arm spin would also have proved vital when runs were flowing against India.
Why he is out of the team is a mystery most of us don’t know. One may rate Mohammad Nawaz or Iftikhar Ahmed a tad higher than Imad on pure skills comparison, but the difference there is in the latter and the other two in clutch situations is humongous.
And that is why instead of jetting off to Guyana, Imad should be on a flight to Colombo.
Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf’s injuries have been described as mere “niggles” and we’ve been told their withdrawals were “precautionary”.
However, with the World Cup less than a month away, one cannot help but feel a bit uneasy.
Pakistan have a long history of heading into World Cups with either one of more of bad form, injuries, managerial upheavals or some other scandal. The current bunch is super settled and to lose any of the regulars due to any reason will be a kick in the teeth.
Here is hoping that Naseem, Haris and all others come out unscathed in this final stretch and make it to the World Cup.
A word must also be said about Team India, who outplayed their counterparts in all facets of the game. The only thing they lost on the day was the toss. Everything else went their way.
After seeing their top order dismantled by Shaheen and Co the previous weekend, India came out firing on all cylinders this time and overwhelmed Pakistan bowlers so much that they pretty much forgot all their bowling plans and ethos.
When they batted, they batted as if it was the flattest of Sharjah decks and when they bowled they bowled as if it were the paciest of Perth pitches.
Pakistan had no answer for either questions asked by India, which is a shame as lopsided games are never fun.
Good thing is that these two can potentially meet again in the final where Pakistan will get the chance to erase the embarrassing memories of this game and write a new chapter.
Header image: Indian players celebrate their victory at the end of the Asia Cup 2023 super four one-day international (ODI) cricket match between India and Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on September 11. — AFP