The game is beautiful, and few rivalries make it even better. One such rivalry between the two neighbours, who once used to be a part of one nation is always a special treat to watch for the fans. India and Pakistan are the most loved and most viewed rivalry across the globe.
Author:- Ashwin Jangam (Cricket Analyst, host, poet, entertainer)
Insta I'd:- cricket_creativity
Since bilateral series does not happen anymore between the two nations, the only platform where we witness the rivalry is the stage of ICC events. While India has proved to be dominant in the ICC World Cup, with an unbeatable winning streak of 7 in Odi World cups, the winning streak of 5 wins in the T20 World cups was broken by Babar Azam's men on 24th October 2021.
Winning the toss, Pakistan made Men in Blue bat first, and Shaheen Shah Afridi proved their decision right. In the very first over, he gave a big blow to Men in Blue by dishing a perfect inswinging Yorker dismissing Rohit Sharma. In his very next over, he came with an inswinging ripper off good length breaching the gap between bat and pads of Kl Rahul.
Stuck in a difficult situation at 6-2, the Indian skipper stepped on the crease to the rescue of Men in Blue. Playing cautiously with Surya Kumar Yadav, he showed why he is the king with his wristy bottom handed six off Shaheen Afridi too long-on. Even after Surya's wicket, he continued to fight along with Rishabh Pant, who played a handy knock of 39 with 2 towering one-handed sixes. The best batsman in the world was firm on one end when wickets fell on the other. He notched his gritty fifty and was scalped by Shaheen Afridi soon. His contribution led India to a fighting knock of 151.
It was Pakistan's excellent bowling, something they are known for, who dominated the Indian batters. Barring Surya's wicket, every other wicket was a result of their exceptional bowling. It was then the show of openers of Men in Green who stole the limelight. Skipper Babar and Rizwan launched an attack on Indian pacers to chase the target with 10 wickets with both scoring fifties. Babar Azam led to the first victory of Pakistan over India in World cups, something which Pakistan would cherish for a long time.
India lost the game for the first time against their arch-rivals. The loss by 10 wickets is a difficult pill or swallow for the team as well as a billion fans. The disappointment of players was visible in the camp. But there are a few lessons Men in Blue learnt, which would help them improve in the matches to come. And as they say, champions are the ones who bounce back stronger. India has always bounced back from the defeats, and it will happen in the remainder of the tournament. Just they need to be keen on a few things.
Firstly, India and its struggles with a left-arm pacer who can swing the ball both ways was always a matter of concern. The left armed pacers have troubled Indian top order from the past half-decade, leading to difficulty right from the power play. While the last time it happened, was during the 2019 world cup semifinal against New Zealand, there was no chance to improve in the tournament as it was a knockout match. But yesterday's match against Pakistan was just the beginning of the tournament, and with improved batting in the tournament, Indian batters can tackle left-handed every time pacers.
Secondly, India heavily depends on its top order. In the last few ICC events, the top order has fired everytime except for the knockout matches, leading to sudden exposure of middle-order in a pressure knockout match. The inexperience of middle-order batting in the tournament led to their failure in all these cases. However, yesterday the middle order was exposed right in the first match, and they kept fighting to reach a considerable total. Given the further duration of the tournament, the exposure of middle-order in the first match itself will give them some confidence to fight if the top order fails in any of the pressure matches. The loss to Pakistan will also help the team and all the players are grounded.
After all, it's a sport. Some days you win, some days you lose. But what matters is the sportsman spirit, which accepts defeat with grace and helps rise once again. The gesture from Indian skipper Virat Kohli congratulating the Pakistani counterpart and Rizwan showed the true meaning of sportsmanship. The visuals of Pakistan players taking tips from MS Dhoni received a lot of heartfelt messages from fans of both countries. While the media of both the countries trying to spread hate and Indian media and fans underestimating the Pakistan team, yesterday's visuals showed the bond of love between the two countries and also gave a message to never underestimate the opposition.
The tournament has just begun. The first match for Men in Blue may have resulted in a loss, but time and again India have shown the world how to rise from the ashes to lead to a victory. Virat is extremely positive about the approach of Men in Blue and is confident of winning the games to come. Similarly, all Indian fans must support and love our team equally the way they would have loved in case of a victory yesterday. In my opinion, India has a great chance to lift the world cup the second time. With the boys raring to go, and fans eager to do so, the tournament will get better and one can hope that the tricolour raises high during the world cup.