ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Pakistan, 2nd semi-final, World Cup 2011, Mohali

Pakistan let it slip through their fingers, literally

Pakistan may have overcome severe lapses in the field to win games in the past, but to expect to get away after handing four reprieves to Sachin Tendulkar is to expect a miracle

Osman Samiuddin at the PCA Stadium

March 30, 2011

Comments: 67 | Text size: A | A

Younis Khan drops Sachin Tendulkar, India v Pakistan, 2nd semi-final, World Cup 2011, Mohali, March 30, 2011
Younis Khan's drop was one of four reprieves handed to Sachin Tendulkar © AFP

At some point over the next couple of days, Pakistan will come to understand just how close they actually got - with this side whom few gave a chance - to getting to a World Cup final. The margin of defeat looks comfortable enough but there wasn't a whole lot between them and India, ultimately, other than a safe pair of hands somewhere, anywhere in the field.

There are many frustrating ways to lose a game, let alone one as big as this, but few gnaw away at reason and rationality quite like those lost to dropped catches. In this age of the instant vent and search for a "match ka mujrim" (criminal of the match), Misbah-ul-Haq's innings is already being pilloried in Pakistan for its poor pacing. The reaction is misplaced and overdone, for the pitch wasn't given to fluent strokeplay, particularly after the ball softened, and there had already been some momentum-losing poor shots earlier from the openers.

Blaming the batting in any case misses the point. Pakistan are never comfortable chasers and 261, in a World Cup semi-final, at the home of the opposition is an entirely different kind of 261 from the ones they might chase down in a bilateral series in the UAE. The point is, they shouldn't have been chasing that much in the first place.

There are some truisms in cricket that Pakistan quite brazenly and joyously ignore; leading among them are those to do with catching. They win matches? Yes, but not as much as scoring runs and taking wickets, thank you. They once dropped Graeme Smith five times as he ground out 65 in an ODI in Lahore, and still won the match comfortably. They dropped seven catches in an innings in New Zealand in 2009-10 and won the Test comfortably. These are to recall just two examples from a sizeable sample.

But there are some rules in life you cannot defy, some batsmen you really cannot give a chance to. And if you give Sachin Tendulkar four chances - not one but four! Tendulkar! - you cannot expect to win a game, no matter what else you do. It was one of Tendulkar's least fluent recent innings as well, but in the drops of Misbah, Younis Khan - their two best catchers -Kamran Akmal and Umar Akmal, went the game. It is as simple as that.

It wasn't - as it never is - just the runs that came after the drops, though Tendulkar did add 58 runs after the first chance went down. It was the mood that was lost each time. The first spill, with Tendulkar on 27, came as Pakistan were beginning to regain their senses after Virender Sehwag's early blast. Tendulkar had just survived two torrid overs from Saeed Ajmal and a seminal moment was at hand.

The second, on 45, came the over after Gautam Gambhir had gone. Momentum again was at stake. The third came a few overs after Wahab Riaz's two-wicket over left India in a position of real danger. All chances, incidentally, were created by the tournament's leading wicket-taker, the man to whom Pakistan look for inspiration, for breakthroughs, for controlling the middle overs of the game, their captain, a man who thrives on taking precisely such wickets, Shahid Afridi.

The effects of this on a game cannot possibly be calculated, except to say the obvious, that it changes everything and goes beyond runs alone. Who knows what target Pakistan could have been chasing? There was another, less important, miss later, on 81, but a miss nonetheless and none of the outfield catches were difficult.

"We made some big mistakes in fielding, we dropped some catches, and catches for Sachin," Afridi said. He then quipped, referring to his much-discussed phantom statement in the build-up of trying to prevent a 100th international Tendulkar hundred, "I told you he wouldn't score a hundred." It was gallows humour.

It is sad - but also predictable - that ultimately it came down to Pakistan's fielding, for that is the one area they have really worked hard on in training and actually thought about methodically, making sure for once of placing the right fielders in the right places. Younger players have come in who genuinely enjoy fielding, a couple of older ones have led the way.

They have been very sharp as they were against Australia but also still capable of sudden, unexpected tragi-comedy as against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa in the second half of the hosts' chase and today. Overall, they have been considerably better than before, in particular with the energy they have brought on to the field. But there is much, much more to be done.

If they are skilled and contrary enough to get away with it against most sides and players, to expect to do so against the game's greatest modern-day batsman, in such a setting, is to expect miracles.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Hassan on (April 8, 2011, 15:42 GMT)

Intikhab Alam was a failure as a player, could not take a catch or even run for it. Failure as a captain because he drew won matches, and lost drawn matches. Failure as a coach as he could not teach his players the importance of fitness (Inzi and Akhter the biggest example) , nor teach them how to catch. Now he is a failure as a manager. When Akmal dropped 4 catches off Kaneria in one single day, Intikhab lacked the courage to say the truth, and instead said, "Kaneria was our trump card and he failed us". I fear the day he is going to be the chairman of the board.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 19:48 GMT)

It was an opportunity of life time for us we might not see this happening for decades. However out politicians decided to ride on our cricketers and use this occasion to play their cards. Rehman Malik's statement was strange and primeminister's presence didn;t helped much it rather added pressure on the captain particularly he should have not called him before the game. Lastly the horrible fielding cause us the match because it was not a difficult wicket to chase on and 260 is a decent total to chase in any conditions. I think Misbah was the only player who showed some charactor had we had two wickets in the end we could have won this game very easily. I would also like to say that Misbah played a greate innings however he should have capitalize at least 6 or 7 more singles in his innings it would have been a different game.

Posted by karthik on (April 1, 2011, 18:22 GMT)

The pakistan minister felt it few days ago and even warned the players...but still 4 dropped catches of sachin...long live pakistan

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 17:33 GMT)

I, alike millions of other Pakistanis around the world am extremely disappointed by the result of the semi-final against India. No doubt, Shahid Afrid has done a tremndous job in uniting the team and fought really hard to reach the semi-final.He is definitelythe captain material. My view is that Younis Khan, Misbah-Ul-Haq and Abdur Razzaq have gone past their sell by date. They should do the honourable thing and quit before they are forced to do so.

Above all, Kamran Akmal must be axed from the team for good. I mean, how many chances does this guy need? He has dropped too many catches during the past 18 months and he has not delivered with the bat either. Surely, there must be a new kid waiting to take over this incompetent wicket keeper; preferably from Karachi.

Posted by Dev Alok on (April 1, 2011, 17:23 GMT)

Osman this is classic would've could've. Give credit where it is due. Pakistan was beaten comprehensively. To say game would've changed if catches were held is speculation. I am sure your Pakistani readership would like to believe what you have written but it is not journalism.

Posted by Shiraz on (April 1, 2011, 14:34 GMT)

As a Pakistani cricket fan it has been immensely fullfilling to see the team do so well in the 2011 World Cup. This in light of all the troubles of security issues, the indignity of been ousted as a joint host of the world cup & the spot fixing scandal. To get to the Semi Final by beating Australia and Sri Lanka enroute is nothing less than remarkable, It not only shows mental toughness but also how much talent there is in Pakistan. The Semi final however also highlighted a negative aspect of Pakistani team. A team works hard to get 10 wickets on the field. You just cannot be vying for 15 wickets in a game by giving someone reprieve after reprieve especially someone like Tendulkar. Pakistan lost by 29 runs only, these runs need not have been on the score board had Tendulkar's catches were taken earlier and the ground fielding tighter. So lets celebrate the success for now and also be mindful of Pakistani Team's short falls too. This is the only way the team can come back stronger.

Posted by Krishnaswami on (April 1, 2011, 14:16 GMT)

Many Pakistani fans are writing that the match was theirs for the taking and give no credit to India's performance. Somehow they cannot think that Indian team is a good one. Please think about the gift Pakistan received in 1992 WC. Matches are won and never ever gifted. Pakistan could have batted well and scored the target. Why they could not do? Only because of the bowling of Indians. Indian fielding was also good. In effect, Indians worked hard for their victory and they got it. At the same time, I salute Afridi for the way he carried himself as Captain on that day and for being so gracious after the match. The way Pakistani team presented themselves on the field was excellent. Cricket fans world over will remember this for a long time.

Posted by mohamed on (April 1, 2011, 12:31 GMT)

inzamam should be pakistain's betting coacher..........

Posted by mohamed on (April 1, 2011, 12:26 GMT)

im a srilankan, im very happy with pak performance, thy hv big chance to win the final if thy cme, i cnt belive the UDRS of sachin's Lbw... seriously it pictchd on field nd shud go straight, coz its an armball..,, bt tv shows itz turn to left side ... any how pak plyd fantastic cricket sofar the tournerment.....

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 9:22 GMT)

The main difference between the two sides was MS Dhoni, he basically put the locks on pakistan's chase. Key moment was umar akmal's wicket, another 5 overs of him and he wud have taken them to a win. I think just having dhoni standing behind u must be putting pressure on batsmen, never know what he will come up with next....

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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