By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Pakistan did all they could to get their World Twenty20 match against India moved to Kolkata, even threatening to withdraw, but poor selection and the hosts’ all-round superiority left them wishing they had not bothered to turn up at all.
The most anticipated match of the tournament between the neighbours was shifted to Eden Gardens at the last moment over security concerns at the original venue at Dharamsala.
Pakistan repeatedly emphasised India’s morale-sapping loss in the opener against New Zealand was an advantage for them and they were even more confident of breaking their jinx of losing every World Cup match between the bitter rivals.
Their decision to play four fast bowlers against India reflected an approach more suited to the 1980s West Indies side and dropping spinner Imad Wasim at the expense of a paceman underlined their failure to read the surface.
Asked to bat in the rain-shortened Group Two match, the 2009 champions were largely subdued once off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin got the new ball to turn viciously.
Doubts seemed to creep into Pakistan’s minds regarding what would be a decent target to set India, who folded for 79 against the Kiwis on a turning track while chasing 127 in their opener, and the innings never gained momentum until the death overs.
“There are few areas we need to improve, specially our batting,” said Shoaib Malik, who top-scored with a 26 for Pakistan. “Even though it was a tough pitch to bat on, I believe we could have set a higher target.”
In the end, Pakistan could only manage a meagre 118 for five in their 18 overs, nowhere near enough without the bowling depth New Zealand could draw upon in Nagpur when their spinners picked up nine of 10 wickets to stun India.
India did suffer a minor wobble though, slumping to 23-3 after Mohammad Sami dismissed Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina in consecutive deliveries in the fifth over to silence the 60,000 crowd at Eden Gardens as well as the millions watching on TV.
However, India’s batting mainstay Virat Kohli hit a prudent 55 not out to calm the nerves and showed why he is considered one of the world’s best.
The right-hander, who averages almost 85 in T20s against Pakistan, was aided by the fact that he did not have to face too many deliveries from Mohammad Amir, whose opening spell of 1-3 ran shivers down India’s spines.
The left-arm paceman was not brought back on by Shahid Afridi until India were nearing victory and the leg-spinning skipper, who lacks the guile to turn the ball effectively, was unable to stem the flow of runs himself.
As the pressure lifted, India were easily able to maintain their utter dominance of Pakistan in World Cup events, adding a fifth World Twenty20 victory to the six triumphs in the 50-over format.
(Editing by John O’Brien)