So, it took 29 years and 13 attempts for Pakistan to break their World Cup jinx against India. And they did it in the most emphatic way possible – hammering the arch-rivals by 10 wickets as well as outclassing them in all three departments.
They say, it is not just a game of cricket, when India and Pakistan take on each other. The meeting on Sunday, their first in two years, came as a part of a World Cup. Since they don’t play each other at the bilateral level anymore, these occasional multi-team event matches draw a huge hype amongst the millions of fans and followers.
Well, Dubai’s game was no exception, despite it being played under COVID restrictions.
It was a working day here in Dubai, yet since the afternoon it seemed all roads in the city headed towards the Dubai Sports City, where the stadium is situated. For the 6 PM start, the gates were supposed to open two hours before at 4 o’clock. But by 3.30 or so, there were huge queues in front of all the entry points.
The intensity of passion amongst the supporters of both teams surrounding this much-anticipated encounter was a true spectacle to watch. People turned up in colourful clothing, with musical instruments to cheer for their respective teams. Even there were fans travelling from as far as the United States, Canada as well as Europe, just to watch these two sides play.
It was a pity that the game lasted only 37.5 overs and failed to live up to the expectations, especially for the Indian contingent of the fans.
Nevertheless, on the field it was Shaheen Shah Afridi who grabbed all the limelight with a fierce opening spell. Throughout the recently concluded UAE-leg of the IPL, new ball bowlers struggled to find any swing but this 21-year-old Pakistan left-armer made the ball talk right from ball one. And since he was operating from the media end, we, the press, got one of the best seats in the house to watch him bowl.
The fourth ball of the match, the first that Rohit Sharma faced, swung in at pace. Despite keeping his stance a little bit open, the batsman was unable to counter the late moment and his back pad was found fatally in front of the stumps.
KL Rahul was the next casualty in Shaheen’s next over. Perhaps, it was a bit too full to play on the leg side.
With India tottering at 6 for 2, it was a dream start for Pakistan and the enthusiasm was felt amongst their journalists as well inside the press box. Every dot ball was being appreciated; every wicket was cheered. They knew that the Shaheen spell had pushed India back significantly.
The Indian press too got their chance when Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant started to show some resistance. Though, we were much more sober – side effects of having overdose of T20 cricket throughout the year, perhaps.
Meanwhile, apart from a brief mess-up towards the end, Pakistan's ground fielding and catching were top notch on the night. They defended the shorter side of the boundary quite brilliantly despite having three slow bowlers in their ranks. Their efforts on the field were a surprise for many of us, who do not get the opportunity to see these boys play very often.
At the halfway stage when India reached 151, it seemed competitive. With their IPL experience in these conditions, the Indian bowlers expected to make a match out of it.
However, they were completely outdone and outclassed by the brilliance of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan.
Even on a used surface, the Indian spinners were unable to find the mojo whereas the fast bowlers were not able to build any sort of pressure whatsoever. Though, the dew played its part to be fair but it was quite on the expected lines and the bowlers as well as the captain were supposed to have a counter for the wet ball.
Having only five specialist bowlers also did not help India’s cause either and in the end, it turned out to be a meek surrender.
Kohli, in his post-match presser, did mention that they (the bowlers) gave their ‘best’ but those who follow Indian Cricket from close quarters should understand that it was certainly not what this bowling attack is capable of.