While Indian Television channels and some of the commentators stooped to ludicrous levels while reporting on the final of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament, 2017, it was left to skipper Virat Kohli to lend the saving grace.
The Indian TV channels’ favourite gambit is to reduce cricket matches between India and Pakistan to a war-like situation; on Sunday too one of the anchors allegedly donned the uniform of a Border Security Force (BSF) and mocked Pakistan across the border in the company of former cricketer Sandeep Patil.
Skipper Virat Kohli, however, was fulsome in his praise of the talented Pakistan side and unhesitatingly conceded that team India was completely outplayed in the final by Pakistan. The generous praise from the Indian skipper won the hearts of many people across the border, where Pakistani cricket fans were equally gracious in conceding that Team India is a great team and skipper Kohli is a great cricketer and a gentleman.
Another Gopichand protégé Kidambi Srikanth did India proud by winning the singles championship of the Indonesian open badminton on Sunday. Srikanth’s final match began around the time Pakistan began its innings in the Champions Trophy final, with the result that not many Indians watched a supremely confident, cool and yet aggressive Srikanth get the better of Kazumasa Sakai of Japan.
Srikanth put up a worldclass performance and made it an easy affair, finishing the match up in just two sets. Carrying on the momentum from the semifinals, where he had outplayed World Number one Son Wan-Ho on Saturday, the Indian shuttler convincingly defeated the 47th-ranked Japanese in the final.
In an unprecedented gesture and apparently under instructions of Hockey India, players of the Indian Hockey Team, which beat Pakistan comprehensively in World League, 2017 by 7-1 on Sunday, wore black arm bands. The entirely unnecessary move was meant to protest or condole the death of Indian soldiers on the LOC in Kashmir. The meaningless gesture has predictably been lauded by the ‘nationalists’ and it seems a matter of time before teams from both Pakistan and India engage in this one-upmanship. Politicisation of sports without a grave enough reason (South Africa was boycotted as long as it followed apartheid) is rarely advisable and one hopes good sense would prevail.
In hindsight, team India seemed to have completely misread the pitch at Oval. While putting Pakistan to bat after winning the toss, Kohli hoped that the bowlers would be able to take advantage of the early movement off the pitch. But there was little sign of any movement as Pakistan’s openers rattled up an average of almost 6 runs an over in the first 10 overs. While Kohli is known to believe that his team chases well, he had not taken into account too high a target. He may also have rued leaving out Umesh Yadav. Above all, the much-fancied Indian batsmen showed an abject lack of application in the face of some brilliant bowling.While India paid the price for under-estimating Pakistani batting, lady luck also favoured the batsmen. Fakhar Zaman was dismissed off a no ball in only the fourth over of the match and Mohammad Hafeez dragged a bowl back on to his own stumps, but the bails did not fall.
Finally, the difference between the two sides at the Oval proved to be their approach. It was almost a role-reversal. Pakistan was playing a brand of cricket we associate with the Indians- fearless cricket. But India seemed to be playing with a defensive, negative and intent-less approach to the game. India looked defensive in its approach while bowling, with spinners constantly trying to bowl wrong-line to Fakhar even while he was hitting them all over the ground. Pakistan played much more positive cricket to take the trophy home.
Reports of Indian cricket coach Anil Kumble on his way out have revived following the Champions Trophy loss to Pakistan. While it was speculated that Kohli and Kumble were not on the same page on training and strategy, both had scotched the ‘rumours’ . But with the loss now, speculation is rife that Kumble could be made the fall guy.
A sustained spell of aggressive fast bowling by Mohammad Amir at the Oval on Sunday found the fancied Indian batsmen groping in desperation. Rohit Sharma (0 off 3) and Shikhar Dhawan (21 off 22) never got going while Virat Kohli (5 off 9) flashed to deceive. Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni looked clueless. Lone performer, Hardik Pandya (a blistering 76 off just 43), was undone by one of his own, seemingly selfish teammate Ravindra Jadeja.
While the top order failed to read the swing on the bowl, the middle order couldn’t take the pressure of the target they were called upon to chase. Once Pandya departed, all India could add to its total was six runs while losing three more wickets to get bundled out for a mere 158 in just 30.3 overs.