Kolkata: After a largely disappointing outing at the Asia Cup, it didn’t come as one bit of surprise the way Pakistan bounced back in their opener against Bangladesh, displaying a thorough professional performance with both bat and ball. There is certain predictability to Pakistan’s famed unpredictability.
Later on the same night, notwithstanding the brutality of its nature, Chris Gayle’s 47-ball unbeaten hundred against England in Mumbai had little shock value to it. The Indian fans were certainly entertained but were hardly surprised by the carnage unleashed by the big Jamaican.
What they weren’t expecting, though, was a bunch of three journeymen from New Zealand sending the Indian team into hiding on Nagpur’s rank turner. If the defeat in itself was unexpected, the manner in which it came – 79 all out in chase of 126/7 by the Kiwis – was even more surprising, if not shocking.
As the Indian players took an evening flight out of Nagpur on Wednesday, they would still have been wondering about what just unfolded the previous night. It’s not like their world has turned upside down but one big defeat has left them on a sticky wicket. The reputation and momentum built over a length of 11 T20 Internationals (10 wins and a solitary loss) appears to have all gone up in smoke after one botched up chase.
India were favourites to win the title but now their immediate battle is to survive as they take on arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday in what essentially is a do-or-die match for the hosts. It’s amazing how things can change in a matter of 18.1 overs.
“Every match from here is a do-or-die game, there is pressure in every game,” admitted Dhoni. “You can’t afford to lose any more. One odd game if you lose, you are out of the tournament. Hopefully it will bring the best out of us because we have been in such situations in the past as well. As far as the pressure is concerned, I haven’t played a match till now where there has been no pressure on us. It is part and parcel of Indian cricket and we will cope with it,” he offered.
India are well aware of the situation they find themselves in now. They not only have to win all their remaining matches but win them handsomely as well. Dhoni hasn’t forgotten the painful exit from the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka where just one loss in five matches knocked them out because of poor run-rate.
“… The smaller the margin of defeat, the better it would have been for us because in one T20 World Cup, it so happened that we lost one game and we were not able to qualify. It is important that in the matches to come, we must win but also the manner in which we win, the margin of victory will also be important,” he stressed.
For India to stay in contention for a place in the knockouts, they will have to maintain one streak and break another. While the home team hasn’t lost to Pakistan in any of the nine matches in World events (five in 50-over World Cups and four in World T20s), they are yet to beat Pakistan at the Eden Gardens in the shorter version. While Saturday’s clash between the two sides will be their first face-off in T20s here, Pakistan have won all the four ODIs played at the iconic venue.