Choice of game
With a plan to be at all India games during this tournament, attending the India-Pakistan match was inevitable. Having keenly watched the famous Old Trafford 1999 World Cup win on TV back in India, being at the rematch 20 years later at the same venue was a dream come true for my brother as well as me. India-Pakistan matches in the UK are mostly about good fun, entertainment and banter in the stands, and less about crowd trouble or fights between the two sets of supporters.
That team in blue. Having witnessed Pakistan's recent resurgence against England and Australia, I was concerned about the return of the enigmatic nature of the Pakistan side. Thankfully that wasn't to be.
Song name: Super-Ro!
Super Rohit Sharma
(back to the beginning & loop infinite)
Rohit typically starts slowly and then later ups the ante. Today was different. With Shikhar Dhawan's absence and with rain looming, his six to the leg side during the sixth over signalled his clear intent to dominate proceedings. That strategy helped India call the shots throughout the game.
Watching from side-on, the Babar Azam wicket had more the frenzied effect of a breakthrough than the flight and guile of Kuldeep Yadav's bowling. Shoaib Malik's dismissal was the real moment when bedlam ensued in the stands. A golden duck by the dangerous Malik effectively sealed the result for India and was the passport for the India fans to go berserk in their celebrations. Seismic activity in the Manchester area would have spiked at that exact moment.
One thing I would have changed
The injury of Bhuvneshwar Kumar further dents India's lower-order batting strength. Although I am pleased that my favourite player, Mohammed Shami, gets a chance, I sure do hope for the quick return of Bhuvneshwar.
Song of the day
Christmas came early in Manchester, as India fans sang,
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to beat
with an obvious reference to the 7-0 streak in World Cup matches.
Old Trafford was transformed into absolute sea of blue. Pakistan fans were few and far between. The Pakistan presence was felt during some late-order India wickets and during that excellent Babar Azam-Fakhar Zaman partnership. Bharat Army's dhol crew featured a top-notch saxophone player and they were relentless throughout the day, as bhangra reigned supreme.
Fancy dress index
The usual fancy dress crew was on display. Pakistan fans were represented by the likes of Mr Pakistan, Cricket Dictator, Sheikh of Pakistan and Chacha Cricket. On the Indian side, it was Sudhir Gautham, who was joined by the famous RCB fan with his familiar red Indian headgear in the IPL, but only this time in a blue Virat 18 outfit. Groups in Dandiya Raas outfits seemed to be the latest fad in the stands. "Pandya in the middle and Dandiya in the stands", said someone as the dance moves were unleashed during a Hardik Pandya over.
Pakistan fan (screams out loud): Manchester is green.
India fan retorts: Sky is blue.
Crowd in raptures. Epic.
Virat Kohli's decison to walk off seemed very odd, especially when there was no nick detected on ultra edge. But the decision to not review the Babar Azam lbw decision was puzzling. That could have well broken the crucial second-wicket stand. How much longer before BCCI invites applications for a newly created position called "DRS review coach"?
Shot of the day
The cut shot by Rohit off Hasan Ali that went sailing for six was quite reminiscent of that one-for-the-ages shot by Sachin Tendulkar off Shoaib Akhtar in 2003.
A clinical performance that will hold India in good stead for the games to come. KL Rahul opened after a while and impressed. India's bowling was penetrative enough to hold off the challenges thrown across by the Pakistan team. Fakhar Zaman's ability to mix control and aggression is a sign of a good head on his shoulders. After this tournament, I see him as a vice-captain or captain of the Pakistan ODI set-up alongside the classy Babar Azam. Having witnessed many of Rohit's centuries - including his first double-hundred - at various stadiums, I have no doubt that this was the best of them all. But I feel his best is still to come.
Marks out of 10
11, if I could. But 10 it is. Despite the foul weather, the game had everything that an India supporter (except the disastrous wait times at food stalls, where starved patrons might faint out on hotter days) could hope for. Unless something drastic happens, the clock has already started to tick towards the next India-Pakistan World Cup contest in four years. Will you be there? I will.
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