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Champions Trophy final: Did Virat Kohli err by fielding first vs Pakistan?

India lost the ICC Champions Trophy final versus Pakistan by 180 runs at The Oval on Sunday. Virat Kohli opted to bowl first after winning the toss.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 20, 2017 00:00 IST
Soumitra Bose
Soumitra Bose
Hindustan Times, London
ICC Champions Trophy,2017 ICC Champions Trophy,India vs Pakistan
Did Virat Kohli lose the final of the ICC Champions Trophy against Pakistan by choosing to field first? (AFP)

There are two schools of thought on whether Virat Kohli erred by deciding to field first after winning the toss against Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday. India, the fancied side, lost by a whopping 180-run margin after Pakistan amassed 338 for four.

The Indians will be on the long flight to the West Indies on Tuesday morning but the post mortem of their defeat against the lowest ranked team in the eight-team championship will continue for long.

For the statistically minded, Sunday’s defeat was India’s 103rd after winning the toss and fielding first. While this has happened 30 times in India, the loss against Pakistan on Sunday was the 73rd time overseas.

India’s defeat was one of the talking points on the sidelines of the launch of the Global T20 League of South Africa.

An array of stars converged at a premier central London hotel to announce the owners of the eight-team T20 league, South Africa’s maiden venture on the lines of India’s Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash League.

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The cream of the current South African team was paraded by Cricket South Africa and AB de Villiers reflected on India’s defeat by saying “Pakistan’s bowling made all the difference.”

India had beaten South Africa by eight wickets in a virtual semifinal to win a passage to the Champions Trophy semifinals. South Africa were restricted to 191 all out by India’s pace twins Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who took four wickets between them but more importantly, bowled several dot balls upfront.

De Villiers backs Kohli

De Villiers said: “Kohli did the right thing by opting to bowl first. No two ways about it. It was just that Pakistan were the better team on the day and played India out completely. It’s got nothing to do with bowling first.”

Allan Donald, one of the ambassadors of the Global T20, had a ringside view of the Champions Trophy as Sri Lanka’s bowling coach. He too echoed De Villiers’ view.

“Batting second was a trend in the Champions Trophy and I am not surprised that Kohli wanted to do that. India have a decent attack and Kolhi was right to back his bowlers,” said Donald.

“Pakistan had the better bowling attack, too,” said Donald, who added that Pakistan’s ability to reverse swing the white ball from both ends caught top batsmen unawares.

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“The credit should go to their bowlers,” said the former South African speedster with spades of County cricket experience.

Former World Cup-winning West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd had a different view. He pinpointed Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball as one of the big factors why India lost the match.

Discipline in bowling is key, said Lloyd and one no-ball hurt India badly.

No-ball let-off

Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman smashed a maiden ODI century to throw India off the rails after Bumrah had him caught at the wicket off a delivery that left him. But the young fast bowler had overstepped and Fakhar rode that slice of luck to script a match-winning 128-run opening stand with Azhar Ali.

“Bumrah has done this in the past and for a young quickie, that’s unacceptable in a big game,” said Lloyd, who added that chasing a score over 300 was always going to be tough.

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India have lost 130 matches while chasing a target of 250 and above. They have won 70 matches while chasing a 250-plus target. But Sunday was not their day.

Kevin Pietersen had a third view. He didn’t think toss was a factor. The former England batsman who seeks to play another year of T20 cricket around the world said Sarfraz Ahmed was a “street smart cricketer” and had the ability to match Kohli’s passion.

“It was a contest of passion and Pakistan were the better side. A lot of credit to the Pakistan Super League for producing some exciting talents like Hasan Ali and Fakhar Zaman,” said KP.

Pietersen added tongue-in-cheek:”When Hardik Pandya scores a 76 coming in at No. 7, how can you expect to win a final?”

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 23:50 IST