Bengaluru, June 18: It is still being considered the mother of all cricketing rivalries. But for how long?
Over the last few years, 'clashes’ between India and Pakistan on the 22 yards has been more about meek surrenders than real encounters. The Men in Blue have been founding toying with those in Green on most occasions nowadays and the World Cup is no exception.
The Pakistani fans were still hopeful that a Champions Trophy final-like result could still be witnessed but that 180-run win was no more a fluke, as confirmed by the subsequent results.
There is little chance that the hype around India-Pakistan games will die down, thanks to the unusual relations the two neighbours, separated at birth, have between them. Cricket matches between the two arch-rivals have been seen more as an alternative battleground where the bat and ball took the places of the guns and cannons.
But since cricket is still played with skills, Pakistan cricket’s incredible collapse through the roof has left the hype around its team’s encounters with India hollow. Unless two evenly capable teams lock horns out there, all the enthusiasm and expectations are bound to hit a wall at the end of the day.
Miandad’s last-ball six had turned the tables around in mid-1980s
The scenario was not always like this though. India and Pakistan started playing each other in ODIs since October 1978 and the first 18 games saw both sides winning eight games each while two were inconclusive.
The 18th game was the historic one for Pakistan when Javed Miandad lifted Chetan Sharma out of the park in the final delivery to give his side an unbelievable victory. That Pakistan win was so traumatic for the Indians that in the next 20 games, India went on to lose 16 and won just four! Of these losses was to another Miandad-like feat from Saleem Malik at the Eden Gardens in 1987.
Malik had turned the table from nowhere by scoring 36-ball 72 not out at No.7 to win it for his team against Kapil Dev’s the then world champions.
These defeats showed that India had weaker nerves compared to Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s and some street-smart cricketers in the Pakistan side in the form of Miandad and Moin Khan made them a smarter side.
The bowling was particularly titled heavily in favour of Pakistan even if India had matched the arch-rivals’ batting. Pakistan certainly took the India matches with a bigger heart those days and each win gave them that much bigger a boost.
Today, India has pipped Pakistan in all departments
Today, the absolute reverse has happened. The last nine games have seen India winning seven and the victory at Old Trafford was the third one-sided triumph in a row for the Indians after the twin wins at the Asia Cup.
While India have only looked stronger with their cricket turning into a massive and thriving industry, Pakistan seems to be in the stone age still. The management of talent is non-existent, so is plan, positive body language, smart captaincy, solid batting, penetrative bowling and accurate fielding. What is left in cricket then?
One fears Pakistan are more interested in playing T20Is now and like the West Indies, they are gradually losing their grounds in 50-overs and Test cricket. Former captain Wasim Akram angrily said after the Old Trafford debacle that the Pakistani players must play in first-class before going for leagues. This is clearly an indication that the players have their different priorities today.
India, on the other hand, also play a great many T20Is but they have not lost sight of the other two formats either. Tournaments like the IPL have broadened the talent pool while in Pakistan, the PSL is yet to serve the country’s cricket in a similar way.
The hype around India-Pakistan games is still high since the two nations have unhealthy relations in other fields and their meetings in a cricket field are few. It naturally creates an enthusiasm whenever they play each other but talking exclusively in terms of cricketing skills, this hype is no more worth it.
Pakistan need to bring up new and exciting talents in their team to throw some solid challenge to India who now have vastly improved themselves across all departments.