The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Date: 15/02/2015
India Vs Pakistan at Adelaide Oval
Live telecast of cricket matches in the 80s and 90s was a luxury. Test matches were telecast live for one hour each in the morning and evening on Doordarshan, the state-run television channel. Highlights of Test matches were shown late in the night. One day matches became a TV regular only after the ‘96 world cup.
We have come a long way from there. With the proliferation of cricket matches & broadcasters in the 21st century, a game of cricket is not really a novelty anymore. Round the clock someone is playing someone somewhere in the world in one format or the other. There are sports channels dedicated to cricket that ensure uninterrupted supply of live or recorded cricket matches.
But what we have gained in access we have lost in value and definitely in quality. Playing careers have shortened. Cricket’s governing bodies are being run by politicians and businessmen who, these days, do not even care to pretend that they are doing it for the love of the game. There are very few contests now that evoke genuine burst of emotions from the fans and followers alike.
India-Pakistan games, fortunately, have preserved their charm through a combination of rarity and ability to stir emotions of the common man on both sides of the border. A world cup match, that too, is like a wedding in the family. Everyone is around to be a part of it. Uncles who cannot stop deriding today’s cricketers make sure they occupy the vantage seats in front of the TV. Office work is given a short shrift and indulgent bosses happily ignore the missing employees.
India and Pakistan met in Adelaide today in front of 41000 fans. The laud, raucous crowd must have made them feel closer to home. Fans had travelled from all parts of the world to witness this game. India went in with 5 bowlers, picking both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Pakistan too, picked their specialist spinner Yasir Shah to complete the five-pronged attack consisting of Mohd Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan and Shahid Afridi.
MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat first. Long gone are the days when MS Dhoni would happily chase any total conceded by his prodigal bowlers. The batting line up is simply not in that form any more. Virat Kohli has looked scratchy in Australia, Shikhar Dhawan’s technique brutally exposed by quality fast bowling. Though Ajinkya Rahane has looked comfortable but has never built a monumental score. So choosing what to do must have been a tricky situation for MS Dhoni.
India opened with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. They started cautiously and just when it looked like they will give a formidable opening to India, Rohit Sharma’s brain-fade arrived in the form of a mis-timed pull to Sohail Khan. It brought Virat Kohli to the crease who started very cautiously, never in a hurry to dominate. First 10 overs produced 42 runs but had given enough confidence to Dhawan and Kohli.
The way Dhawan overcame his mental demons today was really praiseworthy. He was tested by Mohd Irfan’s height and short ball on more than one occasion. Misbah-Ul-Haq’s field placings also were smart and would have rattled Dhawan enough to go for a release shot. But he held his nerve and absorbed the pressure. Soon both Kohli and Dhwana had the measure of the pitch and Pakistan bowling. Shahid Afridi and Yasir Shah could not maintain the control and both the Indian batsmen started extracting mistakes out of them.
Virat Kohli was also the beneficiary of a couple of drops from Pakistan. Yasir Shah could not hold on to a very difficult chance when he ran towards mid-wicket from long on and dived only to see the ball slip away from his fingers. Second chance was more straightforward. Umar Akmal, keeping the wickets, spilled a regulation chance off Haris Sohail’s left arm spin.
Against the run of play, though, the burgeoning stand between Kohli and Dhawan was broken by slight mis-judgement on Kohli’s part when he sent Dhawan back after taking a couple of strides. Misbah’s direct hit found the diving Dhawan inches short of the crease.
Suresh Raina was sent in ahead of Rahane and he immediately got going. He and Kohli put together 110 in 93 balls. Virat Kohli reached a richly deserved hundred and once again was the bulwark of Indian batting. It will come as a relief for the Indian management to see Kohli so decisively hitting form. Suresh Raina relished the limited overs challenge and was soon carting Pakistan bowling to his favoured leg side. He reached his fifty off just 40 deliveries and India were poised for a score in excess of 320.
That’s when Pakistan bowlers found their inner mongrel and completely threw the Indian innings off the track. The slide started with the centurion, Kohli, chasing a wide delivery from Sohail Khan. India were 273 in the 46th over when they lost Kohli. Over the next 28 deliveries they managed just 27 runs and lost 4 more wickets. Though Sohail Khan reaped the maximum benefit by taking a five-for, it was Wahab Riaz who took the steam out of the Indian innings. He was extremely quick and bowled an awkward length which offered neither room nor height to send the ball to the boundary. Indian batting looking quite clueless against raw pace of Riaz and ended up with a slightly under par 300 for the loss of 7 wickets.
Pakistan opened with Younis Khan, an unusual choice, and Ahmed Shehzad. Younis perished in the 4th over trying to fend a Shami bouncer. After that Shehzad and Haris Sohail steadied the ship and started steady accumulation. Haris was in good touch, the ball coming sweetly off his bat. Just when the partnership had started to threaten India, Haris edged Ashwin to the first slip. This brought Misbah to the crease. Pakistan’s progress was slow but they had wickets in hand. With Shehzad having gotten his eye in and Misbah, Umar Akmal, Afridi in the ranks, the game was heading towards an interesting finish.
However, the loss of 3 wickets in 23rd and 24th overs pushed Pakistan firmly on the back foot. They tried to recover through Misbah’s patience and Afridi’s strokeplay. But Afridi fell to a shot that was a mirror image of the one that dismissed him in the 2011 WC semi-final in Mohali. Shami bowled a full-toss that dipped on Afridi and all he could do was to scythe it over 30-yard circle on the off side. Virat Kohli ran back, kept his eyes on the ball and took a good catch over his right shoulder. Couple of deliveries later Wahab Riaz edged behind to Dhoni.
Misbah fought gamely from there on but with the asking rate crossing 10 runs per over and only the tail for company all he could salvage was a decent total for his team. A little application from his team-mates would have made a lot of difference today. His contribution 76 to the eventual total of 224. India won the game by 76 runs when Sohail Khan holed out at long-on to Mohit Sharma.
It was quite heartening to see the way Ravichandran Ashwin bowled today. He relied more on conventional off breaks and bowled a tight line. For the first time since 1979 any Indian off-spinner had bowled 3 maidens in a world cup game. S Venkataraghavan was the last one to do it. He got good drift and extracted fair bit of turn from the pitch. In quite a break from the tradition, India’s seamers were accurate today and got their bouncers right on most occasions.
The World Cup has begun well for the beleaguered Indian team. Today’s was a team effort where three batsmen contributed handsomely to the total and all five bowlers bowled with discipline. This win will definitely take a lot of pressure off this team. With the fans happy and rejoicing they can now focus on the task of defending their shaky crown.