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Is this Pakistan cricket team even worthy of arch-rivalry against India?

The disappointing show by the Pakistan cricket team against India in their ICC Champions Trophy opener shows the deep-rooted issues that are haunting the side.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 05, 2017 18:02 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Champions Trophy 2017,Pakistan cricket team,ICC Champions Trophy
Britain Cricket - India v Pakistan - 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Group B - Edgbaston - June 4, 2017 Players shake hands at the end of the match Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers Livepic(REUTERS)

India love to hate Pakistan. Jingoistic it may sound, but the fact is whenever the neighbours come face to face – be it on the cricket field or on a dais at the International Court of Justice – the persistent undertone is that of gaining one-upmanship. (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS)

But after Sunday’s ICC Champions Trophy match, people are bound to ask: Is this Pakistan cricket team even worthy of India’s hate? Or will it be pity from now on?

It is the presence of characters that spices up a rivalry. This current Pakistan team is devoid of that like never before. It is not as if the realisation came as a sudden development but the way Pakistan’s fight, or the lack of it, panned out at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground on Sunday, it made for poor viewing.

No resilience

The days of the talismanic Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis are gone and cricket fans have made peace with it long ago. What, however, is shocking was that none of the Pakistan cricketers showed the resilience of now retired Younis Khan or Misbah-ul-Haq.

READ | ICC Champions Trophy: India’s win over Pakistan was expected - Sunil Gavaskar

The two were not mavericks that Pakistan once produced but then they always had the gumption to fight. When the duo was on field there was no question of going out lying down.

The ICC Champions Trophy 2017, however, saw a different Pakistan. Barring ardent cricket fans, it’s safe to say that some of the players are not even known by majority.

The likes of Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim are yet to get used to the rigours of international cricket but, at least going by the loss against India, they need to be chiselled more to do justice to the expectation that they carry.

Team in transition

Agreed that the Pakistan team is going through a transition after retirements of several seniors, but the old trick of springing a surprise when least expected is slowly on the wane from the neighbour’s repertoire.

READ | Painful, Pakistan cricket cannot be fixed: Imran Khan after India humiliation

Even the entertainment quotient of Pakistan, that often bordered with uncertainty, is nowhere to be seen.

Lack of leader

In such scenario, a worthy leader can be the game-changer. Sarfraz Ahmed gives the impression of a composed head but is he the one to shake things up is a question that will not have any straight answers.

While the youngsters’ failure may be magnified; seniors like Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shahzad who have been around for some time fail to invoke any inspiration.

During their chase of 320, no batsmen chose to up the ante, even when required run-rate was well past 8 per over. There was a prevailing notion meek surrender almost throughout the innings.

READ | India vs Pakistan: ‘India rode our sloppy fielding, poor show by senior batsmen’

In fact, with Pakistan down by six wickets and staring at a big loss, Sarfraz could be seen sharing a laugh with the batsman at the other end after the latter survived a run out attempt. In time of crisis, it is the leader who should cheer things up but it’s always better if he attempts to do it via action.

Still talented

A lot of retrospection would go in the Pakistan dressing room after slumping to their second biggest defeat against India, and the answers lie within them.

Mohammad Amir for one showed that he has the ability to rattle batsmen at will. Babar Azam has been marked as the next big thing. And there will be more regrouping needed apart from these two.

It will be too much to expect Pakistan to mend their ways soon. But it is what Pakistan cricket fans are rooting for, and may be the Indian fans too – for rivalry’s sake.

First Published: Jun 05, 2017 15:07 IST