There was always a lurking fear that the Pakistan cricket team may get the better of the Virat Kohli-led men if the Indians fall prey to over-confidence. If the highly-rated Indians were mauled by the Pakistanis in the Champions Trophy finals on Sunday it was in no small part due to a sense of complacency that had crept in due at least in part to excessive hype in the media which raised the boys virtually to the status of demi-gods. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, had qualified for the prestigious tournament by a whisker, had had much lesser exposure to international cricket than the Indians because no country’s team likes to tour Pakistan due to terror fears and played as though it had nothing to lose.
The Indians had an enviable record in recent times including a comprehensive victory over Pakistan in the league stage of Champions Trophy. The burden of public expectation was apparently too much for them to handle. Besides, reports about the sour relations between Virat Kohli and chief coach Anil Kumble had spread an element of demoralisation in the team which was discernible to only perceptive minds.
Clearly, while everything that is said now is with the benefit of hindsight, it is undeniable that on that day we were completely outclassed by the Pakistanis in all departments—batting, bowling and fielding. It was not our day and that can happen to any team. Our batsmen—bigwigs in international cricket—all failed at the same time, be it Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli or Yuvraj Singh or M S Dhoni. The exception was young and gutsy Hardik Pandya who scored an impressive 76 in record time with as many as six sixers. Dhoni and Yuvraj have rendered yeomen service to cricket in India but now they are past their prime. In bowling, Ashwin may have been magical on home pitches, but he made no impact in England. Bumrah was off-colour and so was Jadeja. Bumrah in fact started the demoralisation when he seemingly got Fakhar Zaman out only to find that it was off a no-ball which meant that the batsman returned. All in all, it was a hugely disappointing performance by India devoid of merit, of fire and of steely determination.
But that it was not all-bad day is some consolation. The Indian hockey team pulverised its Pakistani counterpart in Hockey World League 7-1 also in Britain and in badminton K. Srikanth walked away with the men’s title in the Indonesia Open. But so much is cricket hyped in this country that these spectacular wins paled into insignificance in comparison to the disappointment over the crushing defeat in cricket. Indo-Pak hockey is passionately followed by hockey enthusiasts but their numbers are admittedly miniscule as compared to cricket. Yet, it is not right to neglect hockey and give it step-motherly treatment. That realisation must dawn on the authorities.