KARACHI: Former greats and fans Thursday singled out sloppy fielding as the main reason for Pakistan's 29-run loss against bitter rivals India in the high-profile World Cup semi-final in Mohali.
Pakistan dropped six catches, four off Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar, to help their rivals post a challenging 260-9.
Tendulkar went on to make 85 and won the man of the match award.
Pakistan succumbed to the pressure of the run-chase and were bundled out for 231 in a match watched by Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and India's Manmohan Singh as well as millions of fans either side of the border.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan said India won despite not performing at their best level.
“Had Pakistan fielded well the target would have been around 220 which would not have been difficult on that pitch,” said Imran, who led Pakistan to their only World Cup title in 1992.
“No team can win the World Cup with such poor fielding and dropping Tendulkar four times was a crime,” added the former skipper in reference to drops when the Indian star was on 27, 45, 70 and 84.
Imran added that India had handled the pressure well.
“The main thing in an Indo-Pak match is the team that handles pressure well wins, and on Wednesday it was India who did not succumb despite some brilliant bowling from Wahab Riaz and Saeed Ajmal.”
Riaz was the pick of Pakistan's bowlers with a career-best 5-46, while off-spinner Ajmal finished with 2-44.
“I think they faltered in the batting order as well. They should have sent Younis (Khan) in at three and Misbah-ul-Haq at four so that they had wickets in hand,” added Imran.
Former leg-spinner Abdul Qadir said fielding had been Pakistan's weakest link.
“Pakistan's fielding has always been their weakest link and their batting has always been unreliable. Both these things came to haunt them,” said Qadir, singling out opener Mohammad Hafeez's reverse sweep as one “which let the team down”.
“Hafeez (43) was playing well but suddenly he played a reckless shot and the whole batting came under pressure,” said Qadir.
But Qadir admitted that by reaching the semi-final, the Pakistan team, which had been under a cloud following last year's 'spot-fixing' controversy that saw three of their teammates banned, had fulfilled its promise.
“Before going to the World Cup the captain and the coach had promised to reach the semi-final and they fulfilled that. Had they been up to the mark in batting and fielding they would have been in the final,” said Qadir.
Co-hosts India and Sri Lanka play the final in Mumbai on Saturday.
Former captain Aamer Sohail also pinpointed poor fielding as the turning point.
“The whole game turned upside down with dropped catches,” said Sohail, a member of team which lost to India in the 1996 World Cup quarter-finals, one of Pakistan's five defeats in as many games against their rivals in World Cups.
Fans blamed poor fielding and reckless batting, lashing out at Misbah's selfish batting.
“He (Misbah) batted for himself and not for the team. He dropped Tendulkar on 27 and then batted slowly to pile pressure on other batsmen,” said Haroon Khan of the middle-order batsman who made 56 off 76 balls.