It’s was as if the Indian cricket team woke up this morning and prepared themselves for their first warm-up match against Pakistan instead of the ICC Champions trophy final. Nobody seems to have had the slightest idea of the amount of build up created by the media among Indian fans back home. Every channel had dedicated hours of debates and discussions about today’s game and what come out at the end of the day was a massive loss. Was the Indian team overconfident ? Did Pakistan outplay India ? Or did India play poorer than usual ? I think the problem definitely lies in both confidence and lack of control in the match.
Decision to bowl first obviously must be backed by some clear plan which surely was lacking. Pakistan did make a good start with their openers but captain Virat Kohli did not seem to rotate his bowlers or make some strategic changes to the field to pressurize them to make mistakes. Ravi Ashwin should have bowled in the first 10 once Virat realized runs were flowing freely from the Pakistani bats against the Indian fast bowlers. A few overs of attacking spin bowling from one end could have done the trick. Every experienced cricketer knows rotating bowlers, cutting down the boundaries and trying different things is the only way to break partnerships. Indian team did not seem to have done the homework on how to bowl to a field or how to approach specific Pakistani batsmen. Dhoni’s consulting service somehow seemed unavailable to Kohli today. The game drifted further between overs 10-30 and there was serious lack of control from then on. If the pace attack was ineffective spin attack can be called almost useless. Hardik Pandya showed glimpses of good performance but overall the Indian team seemed totally unprepared and ignorant of how many runs to concede while choosing to bowl first.
Even if we assume the bowling went wrong for some reason there was no reason for the batsmen to have not stuck to a chasing plan. 60/0 at the end of 10 overs or even 12 overs while stepping up the game slowly to reach 200 within 30-35 overs considering a 100 of the last 10 is always possible in modern day cricket. India could have had a better start by seeing through Mohammed Amir’s first spell without playing any fancy shots. Rohit Sharma’s wicket was expensive and Virat Kohli also seemed very uncomfortable reading Mohammed Amir’s line and length. Waiting for the lose balls and focusing on settling down could have been a better option in the first 10 overs in spite of the huge target to chase down. None of the senior players seemed to have done damage control while wickets were falling at regular intervals. Overall nobody in the batting line-up with the exception of Hardik Pandya who had no choice but to go for runs seemed to have shown responsibility and proper response to game situations at various intervals. While it is easy to be satisfied to reach the final winning the trophy makes a huge difference to the team’s stature outside home turf. Unless winning becomes a habit India cannot afford to see the level of dominance Australia enjoyed few years back. Overall not just a disappointing day but a day that will not come back again until next year.