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Monday, June 19, 2017

Just A Bad Day In Office

Team Being Cynical
Let me start the post with a caveat – If you can’t stand with your team during tough times you don’t deserve to celebrate in their wins either. It was heartrending to see us lose badly to our arch rivals in an ICC final, make no mistake about it. As a Cricket fan myself, I am yet to come in terms with the fact that we lost to a team that in all probability is far inferior to us on the current form. A team which had to manage/modify their international schedule so that they would have enough points to qualify for the ‘Champions Trophy’ actually ended up as the winner on the final day. But that is perhaps the beauty of the game called Cricket. Nothing is predictable in this game and it is proved yet again that on any given day a spirited lot can give rude surprises to the best in the business. Just that we found ourselves at the receiving end this time. This happens in every sport. You lose some and you win some. A mere loss doesn’t make our team any less. They were champions and they still are and least as the supporters we can do is to keep the moral of our team high.

India by far is the better side on any given day and I say so quite dispassionately. It required some exceptional performance to beat this side. We can juggle around with numbers and individuals depending on which side of the fence we are in but the entire tournament showed what this current Indian team is capable of. If the sloppy physical attributes of Kedar and Ashwin could be shorted out, this team could very well become the benchmark for the modern day one-day team. This team isn’t quite as yet become the Australian team under Ponting and Waugh or the West-Indies under Llyod and Richanrds but they are certainly on their way to become one of the greatest teams to ever have played the game. This team isn’t surrendering meekly to the opponents like the team that we grew up idolizing. I can count at least hundred matches where the departure of Sachin Tendulkar almost led us to capitulate like pack of cards. Even before that, we had a team that made a win a prized rarity. Our head-to-head record against Pakistan would reflect the capabilities of our yesteryear teams. Post Dhoni, this team seems to have built a reputation of fighting like a wounded lion on every match day. ‘Never to say die’ attitude is another thing that this team possesses unlike our earlier teams. A single loss doesn’t alter these facts and nor does it makes our team a second string lot.

India lost, which to my opinion, because they played against a team that had nothing to lose. Pakistan played a high risk game which on the day worked out well. Pakistan could win because they went to the park without any plan, or may be a simple plan to play a high risk game and hoping it would click with a little bit of ‘lady luck’. This is in fact the only way out for any underdog. The final game came as a stark contrast to the first game between the same two teams. In the first game Pakistan played with a plan and approached the game with a no or minimal mistake game. This won’t work if you are pitted against a better side. The better side is bound to make lesser mistakes and trounce you down and that is what happened on June 8th. Throughout the tournament India took the approach of sensible and copybook cricket because the situation never demanded to change the course. We followed the same approach in the final as well while Pakistan was quick to learn the bitter truth – they simply can’t beat this Indian side with orthodox cricket. It has to be something different, if not outright crazy. The risk paid off which on other days may not.

Look at Fakhar Zaman and the way he batted. According to Kohli in the post-match presentation, Zaman played a high risk game. Close to 80% of his shots were high risk shots. Nine out of the ten times such shots will land you in trouble but the odd day it clicks it returns you high dividends. Setting up effective filed for such high risk shots is next to impossible. Zaman played an innings of highly insane nature and as luck would have it, most of his shots were coming off well. Look at the bowling of Pakistan as well. Aamir started with an attacking field position and persistently kept the ball up knowing very well that the batsmen could get away with a flier. But that is the risk the underdogs need to take. As I said, you can’t beat a superior side purely on one-on-one mistakes because the better side is bound to make lesser mistakes. Approach has to be unorthodox and sadly India realized the game plan little late and by the time Hardik Pandya came out all gun blazing it was too late. Post the first defeat Pakistan changed their tactic while India continued with the conventional ‘avoid mistakes’ game like each and every match they played in the tournament. To our utter bad luck, while all the unplanned and unorthodox overtures of Pakistan came off well our very own orthodox approach cracked up badly. This may not work for Pakistanis in next twenty attempts but unfortunately it worked out well when it mattered the most.

As somebody correctly said – India  played its conventional, “avoid mistakes” game, as it has done throughout the tournament, buying bonds and investing in index funds and pouring over annual earnings statements, but if the opponent is putting it all on the blackjack table and winning pretty much every hand, there is no way you can match his Return of investment. To put it in layman’s language – Pakistan took the gamble and chose to rather appear ugly to make their way out while we simply couldn’t match the outcome with our orthodox approach.

That said I am not taking anything away from the Pakistan team. They played like they mean business. They played as if their life hinges on the outcome. India thought the encounter to be just another game, thanks to the experience of the earlier game with the same opponents but instead faced a spirited bunch that was ready to give it their all for a win.

Would the results been any different had we adapted earlier than Pandya and done our bit of risk taking to counter the game plan of Pakistan? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Yes because it could have worked out as evident from Pakistani batting; No because the ‘Lady Luck’ seldom smiles on both sides on the same day. It already had smiled on the Pakistanis earlier on the day and in all likelihood the smile would have stayed that way. But then, Hardik Pandya did manage to make my assumption/conclusion look little wrong.

Congratulations Pakistan on a good win!!     

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