As an India-Pak series fan, if you were wondering what happened to the see-saw effect, well, you just got a dose of that at Mohali. I had written earlier that the two teams are more evenly matched this time than ever before; yesterday’s match, I think, proved what was not obvious on paper.
India entered the Mohali ODI as favorites to win the match, but complacency saw them lose a match that was until the last 10 overs very much in their bag. After scoring 300+ batting first, India let Pakistan cut loose with Afridi doing his boom-boom in the last few overs.
Although things don’t look too bad for India, there is plenty to think about. Looking at the Indian batting there are still plenty of holes to be plugged. Sachin and Gambhir did very well, the overly hyped Yuvraj and Dhoni flopped big-time, and Uthappa went cheaply and is becoming a favorite lbw candidate (much like Andrew Strauss) for many bowlers. Indian fielding, while a smidgen better than Pakistan, has still a long way to go to near the high standards set by South Africa and Australia. I can recall at least 4 catches that should have been taken. Speaking of temperment, while much is being said of Sreesanth’s ‘making-faces-and-staring-aggro’, Yuvraj needs to keep his temper too. Yuvraj’s on-field behavior yesterday made one think that there might be more than one reason why he was not made captain and isn’t much of a serious favorite.
Pakistan on other other hand didn’t really win the match, as much as India lost it. Credit must be given to them for pulling it off, but in my opinion, for the first 25 overs, they didn’t look to be even trying to win. It was shocking to see the Pak run rate plummet to 4-odd when Shoiab Malik was at crease; you would expect the captain of a side to show and tell, or at least try. What was more shocking was to see Misbah, now touted as India’s best friend, fall to the same paddle shot (although in slightly different manner) as in the T20 World Cup final. What Pakistan did yesterday in their batting was what most commentators say chasing sides should do while chasing big totals: bat through the entire 50 overs; and the run certainly came, with India’s mediocre bowling and shoddy fielding in the middle overs contributing considerably.
With Rahul Dravid’s continued absence in the ODI side, it remains to be seen if the selectors will see the need for his presence. While the outcome of the Mohali ODI has brought some life back into the series, India still have a small edge in this series, lest they don’t let it slip!