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There may still be a chance for Pakistani fireworks in 2015

Unless we are talking about the sadist variety, I suspect that not many Pakistani cricket fans are reading this post-match blog. In fact, I bet the majority of Pakistani viewers turned off their television sets once Shahid Afridi holed out as usual.

Yes, as we all had a sneaking suspicion that it would, the record now stands at 6-0. For the sixth time in a cricket World Cup, India has beaten us comprehensively. If this continues for a few more tournaments, our record against them may start looking worse than Brazil’s infamous score line at the FIFA semifinal versus Germany. Already, we are dangerously close.

But congratulations to the Indian team. Their batting lineup is undoubtedly superior to ours.

And, in Virat Kohli, they have Sachin Tendulkar’s heir.

Kohil’s greatest asset is that his mental strength matches his batting skill, and a certain Pakistani player (hint: his name rhymes with Loser Suck Mull) should seek inspiration from him.

For the most part, the team management picked the right team for the encounter.

Yasir Shah may have not had a great game, but he could be our most effective strike bowler in the tournament, and will only improve from here. Umar Akmal may have missed a few chances behind the stumps, but Sarfraz Ahmed hasn’t been in form with the gloves of late. In fact, Sarfaraz hasn’t been batting well in the Australian continent either.

Umar Akmal’s dismissal was controversial. While the snickometer detected nothing, the third umpire adjudged him out, overturning the on field umpire’s decision based on marginal visual evidence. This certainly brought back memories from the World Cup encounter at Mohali, where Sachin Tendulkar was also saved by a controversial DRS decision.

The silver lining is Sohail Khan’s excellent five-wicket haul. His fellow seamers, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, were both better than their returns suggested. Similarly, Haris Sohail and Ahmed Shehzad looked good while they lasted. As usual, Misbah-ul-Haq saved Pakistan from complete embarrassment, thanks to his typical rearguard action.

I feel Pakistan’s fault was in how they approached the chase.

It was a similar pattern from previous games. The Indian bowlers were quite wayward early on and the Pakistani top order batsmen were too cautious to capitalise on some of the looser deliveries.

What’s more, both Shehzad and Sohail made the cardinal mistake of spending a long time at the crease without converting it to a substantial score. While Sohail was out to a good delivery, Shehzad gave it away under the pressure of dot balls. The Indian bowlers placed a stranglehold on the duo by denying them easy singles and Pakistan didn’t help the cause. This brings us to Younis Khan.

Back when I was a young boy, this one time, we had a few family guests staying over. It meant that we were forced to transform our television room into a guest bedroom. The TV was moved out into the parents’ bedroom, where we faced discomfort as I tried to watch my favourite evening shows, while my father attempted to catch some shuteye. This discomfort only grew deeper when the guests overstayed their welcome by a few months.

Younis Khan reminds me of those unwelcome guests who overextended their stay.

He is like the family guest who refuses to leave and has a history of taking offense when being politely asked to vacate. Today, he was completely clueless against the Indian bowlers as an opener. Though really, if the man is unable to play at no3, how is he expected to open the innings against a newer ball?

I hate to wish harm on someone, but one can only hope that he develops a condition where Fawad Alam is brought into the squad as his replacement. At the very least, Younis should be replaced by Sarfaraz Ahmed or Nasir Jamshed as opener for the next game.

The bigger picture
The top cricketing teams are virtually guaranteed qualification into the knockout stage in the World Cup, where the strongest contenders will be Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

I believe that of the Asian teams, the only team that can realistically challenge the Top 3 with their bowling is Pakistan.

This isn’t because Pakistan has more arrowheads than India and Sri Lanka in their collection, but in their two leg spinners, they have the right variety to pierce the three favorites.

As for the 6-0 record against India, one wonders if Pakistan is destined to break the losing streak in a knockout match. We still may play them again in this World Cup and there may still be a chance for Pakistani fireworks in 2015. (DAWN)

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