India v Pakistan, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 21, 2014

Diffident Pakistan extend horror streak

For the umpteenth time in world tournaments, nervy Pakistan side lost to an Indian team playing with clarity of purpose
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'Happy to contribute in a win' - Mishra

There was a time, back in the '90s, when India used to go down to Pakistan just because they were playing Pakistan. They would just not be able to play their game. Just the fact that Pakistan were their opponents was enough to prevent them from converting years of practice into performance on the field. That has not happened in a while. India, for most of the last decade, have played Pakistan like they would any other opposition.

India-Pakistan contests in world tournaments, though, have always brought out the '90s Indian team in Pakistan. Nothing seemed to have changed in Mirpur. They were diffident against India in Colombo two years ago, they were diffident today. They had managed 128 that night, they made 131 tonight. Both times, the tone for the game was set by their captain.

Mohammad Hafeez had pottered to 15 off 28 in Colombo at the top of the order; he made 15 off 22 in Dhaka at No. 3 following the madcap run-out that cost Pakistan their first wicket. Consciously or subconsciously, the approach of the captain often mirrors that of the entire side.

Pakistan have now failed to beat India in nine World Cup encounters - five defeats in the 50-over World Cup, four in the World T20. When asked the inevitable question about this infamous record, Hafeez did not think it had played on Pakistan's minds.

"Not really. It's getting into history now. Whatever has happened has happened," Hafeez said. "We tried our best but unfortunately we could not bring the result we wanted to... You can say whatever you want but my personal belief is that we don't think that it is a World Cup, that we can't beat India. We don't go out with that thought because the things were very positive. We unfortunately couldn't break this streak but next time we will try our best."

On the other hand, India were confident enough to play three spinners - one of those strategies for which captains are praised to the skies if it works and crucified if it doesn't. One of those spinners was playing only his second T20 international, having travelled around the world with the team, confined to the bench all along.

Buoyed by the captain's confidence in him for such a crunch game, Amit Mishra was then brave enough to do what is probably one of the hardest things to do in the game - for a legspinner to consistently flight the ball in a T20 game, that too against the archrivals in a world championship. Yes, the pitch was an ally with turn and bounce, but to first contemplate doing that, and to then pull it off with such control requires some nerve. Mishra said MS Dhoni had come up to him before the game and told him to stick to what he is known for, which is to toss it up and spin it, instead of getting worked up about the magnitude of the occasion.

"MS came to me and said you don't think too much, you do just what is your strength," Mishra said. "My strength is to spin the ball and I beat the batsman by giving it some flight. I did the same. I had their opener stumped. I dismissed Shoaib Malik. You gain a lot from such small tips. The way MS Dhoni keeps telling me it helps in such a pressure game. My strength is to spin and flight the ball. This is what has worked for me, so I look to work on it and improve.

"I always think about the short format that whenever you think to stop the runs, you cannot stop the runs. You always think about taking the wickets, how to take the wickets and keep the pressure on the opponent's side. This is working for me so I am doing it."

It was clear cricketing logic. It was brave, of course, but it was logical. It is what Mishra and Dhoni and India were able to plan and execute. They were able to do it because the thought of what opposition they were up against was not on their minds. The same couldn't be said of Pakistan.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on March 27, 2014, 1:43 GMT

    @mzm149 i am pretty sure u would be castigating indian cricket team had pakistan won more matches . If it does not make any difference why would India Pakistan play . India had the upper hand against Pak even when they were the strongest (in wc's) . India have crashed Pakistan's dreams time and again. Accept it mate the last 2 times Pak couldn't even put up a contest they were unsettled from the beginning itself .

  • vkumar_086 on March 23, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Pak players exaggerated by just one win (fluke??) in Asia cup....so kept on giving statements of defeating India....whereas India did not give a single statement....instead Dhoni praised the opposition players and kept himself busy in planning and executed it properly in the ground.....the result is infront of us now....moral: making statements is not necessary to win the matches

  • vkumar_086 on March 23, 2014, 7:43 GMT

    @mzm149...its not hype, its the fact that Pak cant defeat India in world cups....1992 (round robin), 1996 (quarter final), 1999 (super 6), 2003 (pool), 2011 (semi final)...2007 (pool and final), 2012 (super 8), 2014 (group)...in every stage of the world cups India beat Pak....India won all ICC events by beating Pak---2007 T-20 world cup (group and final), 2011 world cup (semi final), 2013 Champions Trophy (group)...and in 2015 world cup group stage also India facing Pak...India definitely going to win that also to extend the stretch to 10-0

  • dummy4fb on March 23, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Hi. Last ball was a four. Please see the highlights the score should read 134/3. Check the highlights

  • vkumar_086 on March 23, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    @mzm149...its not hype, its the fact that Pak cant defeat India in world cups....1992 (round robin), 1996 (quarter final), 1999 (super 6), 2003 (pool), 2011 (semi final)...2007 (pool and final), 2012 (super 8), 2014 (group)...in every stage of the world cups India beat Pak....India won all ICC events by beating Pak---2007 T-20 world cup (group and final), 2011 world cup (semi final), 2013 Champions Trophy (group)...and in 2015 world cup group stage also India facing Pak...India definitely going to win that also to extend the stretch to 10-0

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 22, 2014, 19:41 GMT

    Very simple, ask the honorary professor Hafeez to retire and half the problem is solved. His poor batting, attitude and captaincy cost the team big time. Look at MS Dhoni - Captain Cool brimming with confidence and positive energy. India missed him during the Asia Cup but now he's back and the team is playing like a champion outfit. Pakistani seniors are making the team to suffer. Afridi, Hafeez, Kamran Akmal all should retire. Time for Pakistan to field a completely young team under a new captain. Even Misbah is better than Hafeez as player and captain. The stats tell the whole story. Go figure that out Pakistani fans.

  • android_user on March 22, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    mishra is a good attacking spinner in these conditions but he needs to improve on pitches which offer little assistance to spinners... if he can do that he can be a real asset to the test side ... also msd is a master at rotating his spinners but gets lost while operating abroad when fast bowlers need to take charge... two extremities

  • Desihungama on March 22, 2014, 15:09 GMT

    What Pakistan needs is to field new players whenever they play India from now on. The current lot and so called "experienced" players have only one experience in common and that is they are experienced enough to again and again go into a shell. What we need is brave cricketers who are not afraid of the name of opposition called India and just go play cricket as they know. These tired and tested will fail again and again. The pressure was evident on Hafeez' face no matter what he says post match comments. Heck, next time we play India I reckon we send Afrid to open to set the tone for rest of batsmen. Please do not play Sharjeel in ODI's, he is strictly a twenty 20 player and one who can sent the tone.

  • Elrond on March 22, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    I think the author too, like millions of fans, gets carried away by legend rather than rely on facts. India lost in the 90s because they played a superior Pakistan team. Period. India's record against Pakistan in the 90s was marginally better than our performance against Aus and SA, arguably teams with better all round records in the 90s.

    The nerves may have come into play in one or two games against Pakistan, as it would have been the case for Pakistan. But to imply that a decade long performance record is poor because of nerves ("There was a time, back in the '90s, when India used to go down to Pakistan just because they were playing Pakistan") is nothing more than the author's flight of fancy.

  • dmqi on March 22, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    The difference between the two teams right now is first the mental strength of the two Captains and the of course few quality batsmen India has vs the poor Pak batting line. Get rid of the Pak Captain 50% problem is solved, introduce two new batsmen in place of Shoeb and Akmal, Pak may win. I can lead that team from dressing room.