Disappointing match

Published October 15, 2023

IT was the inexplicable batting collapse that undid Pakistan’s bid for a first World Cup victory against India; their hopes and expectations — as well as those of their 240m countrymen — being burned down by their arch-rivals in the Ahmedabad cauldron. Everything was going against the 11 men in green.

A crowd of 120,000 had turned the Narendra Modi Stadium into a sea of blue, but still, there can be no excuse for the way in which the side crumbled. From their initial position of strength at 155-2, Pakistan lost their last eight wickets for just 36 runs, with India able to reach their target of 192 without hassle and extending their World Cup record against Pakistan to 8-0.

Babar Azam’s men will need some bouncing back from this humbling seven-wicket loss to their hosts.

For all the momentum that they had built up following their record victory over Sri Lanka, for all the pre-match talk by skipper Babar that previous defeats to India did not matter, Pakistan once again came up well short against their adversaries.

This was a shambolic performance, with India exposing Pakistan’s shortcomings on the field that, in fact, were already a point of discussion in the lead-up to the tournament: the brittle middle order as well as the bowling struggles of the team.

Victories against the Netherlands — by 81 runs — and Sri Lanka — where Babar’s men had chased down a World Cup record score of 344 — had, in a way, masked those frailties. India, though, capitalised on those weaknesses.

There was a welcome return to form for Babar, who struck 50, but once Pakistan’s batting mainstay departed, no one really stood up and took responsibility.

The in-form Mohammad Rizwan — who shared an 82-run stand with Babar for the third wicket — made just two runs after his captain’s dismissal before being sent back for 49. There seemed to be no plan in place to limit the damage, and worse still, Pakistan were sent packing in the 43rd over.

Babar appeared to be at a loss for words to explain the collapse and admitted his side didn’t have the cutting edge with the new ball after seeing India race to victory.

The euphoria has come crashing down and a deep inquest is needed, the underperforming ones need to stand up and be counted if Pakistan are to revive their campaign.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023

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