There was a time in the 80s when Pakistan dominated these contests. Then in the 90s, slowly but surely India started to find a way back in — the arrival of Sachin Tendulkar helped counter the mercurial individual talents of Pakistan. Still, the World Cup triumph in 1992 was a huge boost to the sport in Pakistan — more talent emerged and it ensured that there was an edge to these encounters.
An edge that meant sleepless nights for the players and the fans; an edge that meant the winning team would need something special; an edge that promised a contest. But on Sunday, the teams were not even operating on the same plane.
So vast was the gulf between the two sides that the result was never in doubt.
It is almost easy to forget that India started the match with their first-choice opener missing and lost one of their specialist bowlers [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] just a few overs into Pakistan’s batting effort. And yet, they had too much class and professionalism for an amateurish team led by a yawning Sarfaraz Ahmed.
India didn’t blink — they calmly took advantage of Pakistan’s mistakes and ticked the boxes while Ahmed’s team seemed to wait for a moment of individual brilliance to pull them back into the contest.
In the past, Pakistan had genuine match-winners who could turn a match on it’s head but now they just lack the quality to worry India.
At various points in the game, Pakistan had opportunities presented to them. They won the toss, Rohit Sharma got his shot selection wrong when on 140, Virat Kohli walked despite not edging it to the keeper, Bhuvneshwar’s injury left India a bowler short, Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t take a review against Fakhar Zaman… still, it was never a contest.
It all started with Rohit Sharma. In a post-match interview, KL Rahul revealed how he kept telling his opening partner that he was nervous but the manner in which the India vice-captain took charge was a sight to behold.
Usually, Shikhar Dhawan gives India the early push as Rohit looks to settle in but with the left-hander missing, the batsman from Mumbai took it upon himself and never allowed the Pakistan bowlers to find their rhythm. He played Mohammad Amir carefully but took full toll of anything loose from the other bowlers.
It was an innings of immense class and it allowed India to put the pressure right back on Pakistan. The Pakistan attack was a bit too short to Rohit [51% of the deliveries they bowled to Rohit was short and when one considers how good he is at the pull shot, that was clearly the wrong strategy] and he helped himself to fours and sixes whenever the opportunity presented itself.
The ease with which he found the gaps showed just how much he has matured as a batsman and why some teams might even be right to fear him more than Kohli. But in a sense, this innings also showed why this Indian team is the one to beat. They have their processes in place and whoever steps up has a very specific job to do.
Even when Bhuvneshwar was forced to walk off the field due to a tight hamstring, India didn’t panic. Vijay Shankar took a wicket with his first ball to surprise even Kohli but the rest of the bowlers upped the game — Hardik Pandya was bowling in the 140-143 km/h zone and Kuldeep Yadav found his verve again to scuttle Pakistan’s challenge.
Jasprit Bumrah ended up with figures of 8-0-52-0. Yuzvendra Chahal was taken for 53 runs in his 7 overs. Bhuvneshwar could only bowl 2.4 overs. And yet, India barely broke a sweat. It is this fact that more than anything else highlights the belief of this team.
This Indian team doesn’t rely on chance anymore. If one comes along, they will grab it but they don’t rely on it. Rather, they create their own luck through meticulous planning and hard training. They have plans in place and the players have the quality to execute those plans.
Pakistan believes cricket is a game of chance, while India believes it is a game of skill. And in the end, that was the difference between the two sides.