The cricket of the Pakistan team was a bit like ‘covfefe’. Similar to Trump’s gaffe, everything was wrong about it. But then it was a ‘covfefe’ kind of day for most people, including the security cover England was supposed to provide at an international sporting event of considerable significance, but there was little security around when some Pakistanis tried to play politics with placards and slogans on Kashmir at a cricket match in Edgbaston in Birmingham, in the British midlands, just hours after terror attacks took place on the London Bridge and nearby Vauxhall.
Nothing moves in the India-Pakistan sphere without someone taking delight in the other’s misfortune. But then the story of the Pakistan cricket team has been a 25-year-long heartache in the World Cups and T-20 while the Champions Trophy in its current format and nomenclature had given them some breathing space in the wins in 2004 and 2009.
So, this wasn’t quite the silver jubilee of Pakistan’s first defeat in its first ever meeting with India in prestigious world events. That took place in Sydney, after which Imran Khan’s cornered tigers actually went on to win the crown.
Things have never been that good again for them. As sporting contests go, there has been always been more hype than close competition in such clashes, with Pakistan invariably at the receiving end. The point is they seem to get beaten even before the first ball is bowled these days. Their defensive attitude was most evident although the fiery Mohammed Amir beat Rohit Sharma six times in the first over without getting his wicket. No team could have started more aggressively and yet who did they bring on at the other end — the sliding left arm spin of Imad Wasim.
Sharma stooped to conquer, which is what Team India invariably does. They play the match, not Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan seem to be playing their bogey team India in their mind all the time. The poor guys may be trying too hard, either knock the stuffing out of the Indian batsmen or the leather off the ball. The Indians play the game far more cleverly, like the openers who laid the foundation for a 50-over innings. There was nothing egotistical in their approach, no intention to take on a bowler, but only sensible milking of runs, the bad ball put away decisively.
The phase of domination came later when the urgency of the limited-overs game took over. It was in facing up to an offensive that the Pakistan team collapsed, much like Trump’s early morning tweeting fingers. It was in Virat Kohli’s power hitting in the death overs that the pent-up emotions of Team India showed in a game against Pakistan. The skipper had a message to deliver, particularly after a poor IPL, and he did with relish in the sort of combative situation he thrives in. The stalwart Yuvraj, debut 2000, may have seen it all and you could see that in the flow of his bat, which was far more fluent than even his captain’s on the given day. He was out there to leave an impact on a cricket match and he enjoyed doing it.
Pakistan was batted out of the game by the halfway mark and only the uncertain weather could save them, but not even the rain gods were in their favour on this day. This is India’s 13th win in ICC events and it came on the back of very good cricket in defending the target professionally. The Indian seam attack has improved beyond recognition. The fact that Umesh Yadav has become consistent in his length is the icing on the cake. He is right up there now with the best quicks in the world and even the dry pitches, made to order for the Champions Trophy in search of perfect balance between bat and ball, cannot deter him. The irrepressible Ravi Jadeja was there to lend the Indian attack the balance and in having to get at him in the face of a climbing asking rate, the Pakistanis looked indeed like ‘covfefe’.
Team India decimated Pakistan with clinical precision that comes out of a professionalism honed in the IPLs. The domination over Pakistan is a cricket tale that is stretching to epic proportions. But then the team is not to be judged by how it beats Pakistan but what it does in getting closer to keeping the crown. In a way it was better that the marketing men’s idea of an India-Pakistan clash being their first games in the league, as it was in World Cup 2015 too. Get the pent-up emotions out of the way and they can think only cricket later on in the campaign. India got to the semis in 2015, but the expectations around the defending champions here are far greater.