Pakistan's poor World Cup record against India a case of losing it in the mind
New Cup. Same result.
The scoreline reads 6-0. Sydney, Bangalore, Manchester, Centurion, Mohali and Adelaide. The stage might change, but the result has not. India again stamped their authority over Pakistan in a World Cup, as Pakistan’s batting disintegrated on the big stage, yet again.
The Indians, somehow, seem to galvanize themselves whenever pitted against Pakistan in World Cups. They have upped their game every single time, irrespective of their form before or during the tournament. Pakistan, on the contrary, seem to discover new ways to disintegrate whenever they play India in World Cups.
None can argue that with the intricate cultural and political history the two nations share, an India-Pakistan game, more often than not, transcends the sport on the whole.
Pakistan has failed terribly to handle the pressure of the big occasion. Not once, not twice, but six times now. It seems as if every time they take the field in a World Cup game against India, the ghosts of the previous defeats return to haunt them. And this has hurt Pakistan badly.
Last evening, when Sohail Maqsood pushed only his second ball, a wide short delivery by Umesh Yadav, straight to the hands of Suresh Raina at first slip, the pressure of the occasion clearly showed on him. Similar was the case with the much touted Yasir Shah, who crumbled on the big stage, being taken for plenty by Virat Kohli and the rest.
For a bunch of youngsters who would have watched the previous Pakistan defeats only on TV, having relatively less baggage of past memories, to have played the way they did was disappointing from a neutral perspective.
Go back to 2011. The World Cup semi-final at Mohali. A young and extremely talented Pakistan side succumbed to India on a day that was marked by the presence of the who’s who of politics, the film industry, and watched by almost another two billion.
In 2003, in a crucial league game at Centurion, Shoaib Akhtar lost the plot against a bludgeoning Sachin Tendulkar. Similar was the case during the famous quarter-final at Bangalore in 1996, with captain Aamir Sohail being at fault on this occasion.
Every single time, Pakistan lost the battle, first in the mind, and subsequently on the field.
Especially during the last two encounters, India have dealt with the pressure of the big occasion much more smartly than Pakistan. And a lot of it can be credited to the Indian Premier League (IPL). Indian players, even those new to the international arena, have frequently played high-octane games in front of huge crowds, and take any big game as just another cricket match. This is something that their Pakistani counterparts haven’t done. MS Dhoni mentioned in the pre-match conference that he didn’t need to calm the nerves of his team, with the players having had enough experience of playing such matches.
What is also disappointing for Pakistan is that the man who has been part of most of these losing sides, Shahid Afridi, has not even once made his presence felt in any of the India-Pakistan games. On the last two occasions, he has been out, frustratingly for a Pakistan fan, in identical fashion. Two full tosses and two mistimed hits straight to the fielder. Both times, the situation demanded him to build a partnership with Misbah-ul-Haq. Both times, Afridi failed.
In cricket, a saying goes, ‘Winning is a habit, so is losing’. Pakistan, as of now, seem to have caught the less desirable of the two habits against India at World Cups.
The solitary silver lining for Pakistan is that the last time they lost to India in a World Cup encounter played in Australia, they went on to lift the trophy. This is something Misbah would be hoping to replicate come the 29th of March.