From bragging-right game to near-knockout: How Pakistan’s loss changes everything for Sunday

Left: Babar Azam, Source: PCB. Right: Rohit Sharma, Source: BCCI

India-Pakistan was to be a game for bragging rights. The format felt like the ICC had tried to make sure that both teams made the Super Eights. That’s the only way to make money and the ICC, with the experience of the 2007 World Cup behind them, did not want to take a chance. But then, they don’t really know Pakistan. No one does. They are their own biggest opponents, and know the art of self-destruction. They know how to blow up opportunities, and now have a captain who fancies blaming bowlers instead of taking responsibility. Babar Azam, with a poor run 43-ball 44, should have taken responsibility and stepped up. Instead, he decided to blame his bowlers, further dividing the team. Exactly what a captain shouldn’t do. 

Take the Super Over, for example. Mohammed Amir had bowled a really good spell and earned the right to bowl the Super Over. But then, three wides and an extra eight runs as a result. Few club-level bowlers would have done what Amir did. It was far below his best, and he made sure the USA had enough to defend. That’s the Pakistan I am speaking about. The one that doesn’t know how to do justice to the talent they have.

Does Babar not have potential? Does Amir not have lethal yorkers? Indeed, they have. Babar is one of the best ever, and there can be little debate. But come the crunch situations, he is found wanting. Not once, but multiple times. And the same is applicable for his players. Remember Mohammed Nawaz? Remember the most famous wide ball in India-Pakistan history? R Ashwin played it smartly and that 2022 game was India’s. Amir did a Nawaz three times over against the USA, and only has himself to blame. 

What it has done is set up India-Pakistan as a match of real consequence. A routine group-stage encounter – if any India-Pakistan match could ever be described that way–now has so much riding on it. A Pakistan win will keep them in the tournament, while an Indian success might tempt Babar to stay on in New York for a good few months.

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Pakistan started their World Cup campaign with a confidence shattering loss to the USA. (PC:

Pakistan are on the cusp. They could implode or find their mojo, and that’s what makes this clash so interesting. Pakistan with their backs to the wall could make things really entertaining, and for fans, nothing could be better. Having spent top dollar, they want their stars to step up, for that’s what they have paid for. After a below-par effort against the USA, Pakistan have no option. The ICC, on the other hand, must be on the edge.

While the US result has brought the tournament alive after a rather tame and problematic start, with all focus on a substandard pitch and outfield in New York, what it has also done is make Sunday’s game almost a do-or-die one for Pakistan. While I would never underestimate Pakistan, suffice to say one expects a better effort. One expects Babar to play better, and not blame others. One expects Amir to bowl better and be more disciplined. Finally, one expects Pakistan to keep their composure and not self-destruct. This World Cup needs Pakistan. Without them, it could be a damp-squib tournament. Their loss, strangely, has set up June 9, in more ways than one.

Also Read: T20 World Cup: Problem runs deeper in Pakistan cricket, says ex-skipper Rashid Latif