Cricket World Cup 2011: Afterthoughts on the India-Pakistan Semi-Final

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Cricket World Cup 2011: Afterthoughts on the India-Pakistan Semi-Final
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

The much awaited, much hyped, Mother Of All Games, between the sub-continental giants, India and Pakistan, is finally behind us.

India won, Pakistan lost.

Indian fans will celebrate.

Pakistani fans will mourn.

Another sub-continental giant, Sri Lanka, await the men in blue on Saturday, the 2nd of April, 2011 in Mumbai.

Despite it sounding like a cliché on a stuck record, can Team India do it for Sachin Tendulkar?

The Little Master had a terrible outing. Four lives, two appeals turned down and yet the Little Master could not cross the Rubicon of 100 tons.

As Suresh Menon of the DNA remarked in one of his recent columns, would it be a bad thing if Tendulkar never did?

Sir Donald Bradman was unable to score the requisite four runs in his final innings to average a perfect 100, instead out for a duck to end up on 99.94. Was that such a bad thing?

Even the best are not perfect. Maybe that’s the Almighty’s way of saying, “Perfection is mine alone. You can only strive to attain it.”

Despite the opposition’s butter-fingers and a sterling bowling performance by young pace discovery, Wahab Riaz, Sach was crowned man-of-the-match.

Graham Crouch/Getty Images
Wahab Riaz: Deserved the man-of-the-match award

Even he would admit that it was not his finest innings. Yet he ended up on the winning side. And that counts more in the eyes of the adjudicators.

Riaz deserved the award simply because a fifer, especially in a one-dayer, is a rare occurrence and more than equivalent to a ton.

To put it into context, in all ODIs ever played, there are 201 players who have taken five wickets or more and 277 who have scored tons.

Occurrences are even rarer. 3147 ODIs have been played since 1971. 1137 hundreds have been scored in them with just 349 instances of five wickets or more.

It’s always funny how when a big match comes up, some big players fail to turn up. Umar Gul disappointed. It was left to Wahab Riaz to take up the slack and make inroads into the vaunted Indian batting line-up.

His bowling restricted India to a competitive total.

This was his best ever bowling performance in an ODI. What a stage to do it on.

Aaqib Javed was another Pakistani bowler who raised the bar while playing arch-rivals India.The youngest player ever to take a hat-trick, Javed has 54 wickets in 39 ODIs against India at 24.64. Four of his six one-day man-of-the-match awards were against India.

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Sachin Tendulkar: Luck favours the brave?

Venkatesh Prasad was another who reserved his best for Pakistan. He had a hand to play in two of India’s previous four wins against the north-west neighbours in a World Cup.

No Indian can ever forget how he clean-bowled Aamer Sohail in that thrilling quarter-final encounter in 1996, turning the game India’s way.

Prasad has 43 wickets in 29 games against Pakistan at an average of 28.9 against his career average of 32.3.

More about the India-Pak game.

MS Dhoni may try and gloss over the fact that Yuvraj Singh was taken for runs in his final three overs. Dhoni said that he was glad that he did not have turn to more than five bowlers in this game.

Yuvi,however, looked decidedly vulnerable when Umar Akmal decided to use his feet against his pitch-perfect deliveries.

The Sri Lankans are excellent players of spin. They will not hesitate to target the weaker bowlers. Getting Ravindra Ashwin into the playing eleven will be the right choice.

The Indian skipper must be lauded for bringing back Ashish Nehra for this crucial game. The criticism he copped for the heart-breaking last over against South Africa must have been soul wrenching.

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Dhoni’s man management skills came to the fore.

Nothing like faith reposed repaid—in spades.

Misbah-ul-Haq batted as though as he was in the nets having batting practice.

When he realized that there was no one to partner him, he decided it was time to play Superman. No one told him that Superman Afridi had been struck with kryptonitis.

That Pakistan got so far in the tournament is a tribute to their fighting skills and the undoubted talent in their ranks.

The Indian bowling dealt in twos. Each bowler had two wickets to his credit. A real team-effort there.

Finally, credit must go to umpire Simon Taufel. He had a fantastic outing, spot on with his leg before decisions.

The real game-changer was the DRS.

If Sachin Tendulkar had not opted for a review against that leg-before-wicket decision by Ian Gould facing Saeed Ajmal, Team India might well have been staring down the barrel.

Can Tendulkar’s luck hold for yet another match?

(All stats courtesy Cricinfo.)

Quote of the day: 
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture. – Bertrand Russell

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