India’s win/loss record in the past 10 years has been 1.892 wins for every loss. Pakistan’s record in the same period has been 0.911 wins per loss. The difference in quality between the two teams is evident and this gap has been widening over the years.
A look at the rolling win/loss ratio between both sides since 2009 illustrates the gap much better. Since 2009, India has always been maintaining a W/L ratio of over 1.5 wins per loss, Pakistan, on the other hand, have had more losses than wins in the past decade – the major uptick in 2011 was thanks to them being one of the best sides at the World Cup – against opponents at the World Cup minus Afghanistan (given they became a Test nation just recently).
The above numbers clearly illustrate the gap in quality between the two teams.In the past decade, India has had the IPL riches flowing in, which have been put back in the game, the setup has become more professional, the players have become more aware of what their game needs and have worked towards it. Even the competition within the domestic setup has been steadily increasing.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have seen a delayed launch to their franchise T20 league, the Pakistan Super League. They have not been playing cricket at home on a regular basis since 2009 and the revenue stream compared to India has been far thinner. So there is no surprise in the massive gap in quality between both sides.
But the gap in quality can be managed if your team plans better. It’s true that there is nothing a side can do to close a huge quality gap between two sides overnight. But when it comes to games, teams can fight better and execute plans better out in the middle. Make life tough for the opposition team, focus on the 1% which could be the difference in the end.
On Sunday, Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first. Both captains wanted to field first given the rain in the air and the fact that the pitch has been under covers for 3 days. And Pakistan got the opportunity to do just that after winning the toss.
Ideally, Pakistan would have then wanted the pacers to utilise the swing, get the Indian batsmen to play at the ball and use the swing to their advantage. But barring Mohammed Amir none of the Pakistani pacers stuck to this plan. While Amir pitched the ball in the good length area consistently, the rest of the pacers lacked the accuracy to hit the good length and were either too full or a bit too short. This minimal difference in length was all the Indian batsmen needed to punish the Pakistani bowlers, especially Rohit who at one point in his innings had faced 51% short balls – which is playing right into his strength.
While the bowlers did not execute their plans well, the fielders also let the Pakistani team down. There were too many easy singles and doubles on offer for the Indian batsmen, which meant there was no sustained pressure on them. India’s innings consisted only 118 dot balls, which is just 39% of the entire innings.
Fielding is something which can be worked upon with hard work and fitness. A good fielder does not have some extraordinary talent to be a good one. He becomes one by working continuously. With Pakistan having just one world-class fielder in their side, their frailties showed. Their dip in fielding form since the Asia Cup, which coincided with the departure of Steve Rixon, was summed up well when Fakhar Zaman threw at the wrong end to give Rohit Sharma life early in his innings.
Pakistan’s batting approach in the chase was a strange one as well. The cautious start was probably due to the fact that they were looking at a D/L total to be ahead of India in case of rain. If this was a full game without any rain interruptions, Pakistan’s response did not seem like that of a side chasing 337 runs for a win. Fakhar Zaman, who is known for his attacking strokeplay, kept it aside for a major part of his innings. His partnership with Babar Azam saw Pakistan score at 4.88 runs per over, which meant that the required run rate which was 6.74 RPO at the start of the chase jumped to 8.46 RPO. This lack of planning from the team early in the innings was baffling and it did seem that Pakistan had decided that the chase was out of their hand and they had to play for the net run rate.
But the major issue came after the Fakhar-Babar partnership. Pakistan collapsed like a house of cards losing 4 wickets for just 22 runs and rendering their chase completely void in case it did rain later in the day – which it eventually did. Fakhar Zaman played a poor sweep shot against Yadav and top-edged the ball to Chahal, Hafeez mirrored his dismissal against Australia by picking the lone fielder in the deep at a stage when Pakistan had just lost two wickets, Shoaib Malik could not handle the extra pace from Pandya and played a feeble shot to get an inside edge and now has failed to score a run in two games.
None of these dismissals were down to extraordinary bowling from India, but because of the pressure, Pakistan brought upon themselves by not looking to actively score runs during the chase.
The difference in India and Pakistan’s approach at the crease can be measured by the dot balls both sides played, Pakistan played 117 dot balls in 240 balls they faced, which is 49% of the total number of deliveries, compared to India’s 39%. The lack of intent from Pakistan with the bat is what hurt them, they might have had a plan (or maybe not) but the lack of execution out in the middle is nothing new.
If Pakistan have to improve as an ODI side it will have to be a gradual process. They will need to revamp their domestic cricket, in the long run, it will help Pakistan. But if they need to improve themselves in the short term they need to close the quality gap between them and the bigger sides by planning better for the opposition and sticking to the basics, else this will continue to be a disappointing era for Pakistan cricket.