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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014
Pakistan tactics were bizarre
Pradeep Magazine, Hindustan Times
March 31, 2011
First Published: 00:37 IST(31/3/2011)
Last Updated: 01:51 IST(31/3/2011)
Shahid Afridi gives the ball to teammate Umar Gul during the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match against India at The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali.

Pressure does strange things to people, especially when a sporting contest is more than just a match - for most, a question of life and death. Some people thrive on it, others just crumble. The nerves can become edgy, fielders leaden-footed and hands so greasy that catches will never stick to the palms.

In the euphoria of an Indian victory over Pakistan, which gives them one final real chance to be called world champions for the second time in the history of the one-day game, let us not forget to thank Pakistani fielders and the strange tactics by their batsmen and their captain when they were falling far behind the run-rate.

In many ways, this was a match that mocked at expert opinions, be it their reading of the wicket or the course the match would follow. The wicket, to begin with, we all thought was a belter when Sehwag's devastating strikes damaged Umar Gul's confidence. A score in excess of 300 looked a certainty and Dhoni's decision to leave out Ashwin, when spinners came to the fore, appeared a blunder.

Then ensued a more bizarre battle. The more Tendulkar tried to get out, the more reprieves he got. Pressure, which the two captains before the match were saying does not exist, was taking its toll on Pakistan and even on the great Tendulkar.

Much as there was to admire in the quality of Ajmal's spin and Wahab's left-arm pace, which in the end restricted India to far short of the predicted 300 runs, it was obvious that the wicket was not going to be easy to bat on. India then turned on the pressure, bowling well and fielding brilliantly, leaving Pakistan chasing shadows. Their batting tactics were hard to understand, harder still to fathom why Afridi did not take the batting powerplay when he, his own team's last hope, was on the crease. He will need to do a lot of explaining to his supporters, why he did what he did.

Once India sniffed victory, they were like tigers on the prowl, something they will require to be in the final right from the word go.


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