Published On: Sun, Jun 18th, 2017

ROHIT MAHAJAN IN LONDON : Just another game? Not quite

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2017_6$largeimg18_Sunday_2017_023142680Take a deep breath. Keep calm, keep watching, keep playing. It’s just a game. Eschew the war analogies. It’s just a game. That’s the advice from Virat Kohli, and it’s very likely that it’s going to be ignored by most fans from India and Pakistan tomorrow. Cricketers say this all the time — that it’s just a game. Only once was there some plain-talking by a cricketer in recent years, and it was during the 2011 World Cup in Ahmedabad. Yuvraj Singh had personally dethroned Australia as world champions and driven India to the World Cup semifinals. Next up? Pakistan in Mohali. The prime ministers of the two countries watched the match live — that was the hype around that game. Yuvraj was asked if the team would be taking the game against Pakistan as “just another match”. “We think a lot that we’d play it like just another game… magar ho nahi pata… It doesn’t happen that way,” Yuvraj responded.  So what happens in the middle? Yuvraj gave a clue in Ahmedabad in 2011: “Bahut mushqil hai… bahut mushqil tha emotions ko control karna… dhadkan kaafi tez ho gai thi — the heartbeat was faster. If you make a mistake, you’re out of the World Cup. Many thoughts come to your mind.” So Yuvraj tried to keep his mind free of emotion. He focussed on the mechanics of playing the game — watch ball, play ball. “I tried to watch the ball, play straight… I thought I would start hitting if the required run rate went up to 7 an over.”

Focus!

Focus. That was the strand that ran through Virat Kohli’s pre-match analysis today. Kohli emphasised the need to keep calm. He said it was important to focus on “things that matter”, to stay away from the madness of the social media, to forget the expectations and look at doing the job on the field. “We haven’t spoken about this game in any different way,” Kohli said. “People (his team) are just doing the normal things that they do in any practice session… That’s the kind of approach we have maintained throughout the tournament. It’s just another game of cricket tomorrow.” Then he went into a Zen-stoic mode — he said the result of the game would not alter the fact that his team must go on to confront the future. “Whatever the result, we have to go forward and play more games after that,” he said. “The more relaxed you stay in these kind of situations… it helps you take better decisions when you are composed and calm mentally and you can help the team come out of difficult situations only if you’re thinking in that fashion.”

Pak point

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur also talked about calmness, expectations, and escaping the fear of failure. “I think the youngsters have been great. They’ve come in with no fear of failure,” Arthur said, and added later: “They’re genuinely excited. I said before the Edgbaston game, I thought they were really, really calm, but they’re very, very excited now, and there’s a hell of a good vibe in that dressing room.” “When there’s an India-Pakistan game, there’s a lot of pressure,” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, more forthcoming on the issue of pressure, said. “Sometimes, the bowler is disturbed, if a couple of boundaries are struck. Thank God, our bowlers made a comeback after the game against India…” Sarfraz, in contrast with Kohli, talked in glowing terms about the comments on social media — he’s obviously looking at only the positive stuff. “The way we’re being backed on social media and media, and the wishes of the people are with us, I thank our people for the way they’ve backed our team,” he said. The people, they’re backing the two teams fervently. The people will get excited, the people will lose their cool. The players must not do that. They’re aware that controlled excitement, good nervousness is what they need. Now, it’s all in the mind, Kohli said. This is the summit. You can’t work on your technique now, with bat or ball. You’ve got to trust your game. “It’s how you prepare mentally is key in big games,” the captain added. It’s all in your head, in keeping your head. They say… I think the game is between two teams, two countries and not individuals. It surely is a mouth-watering final, something that every player looks forward to. For years, the India-Pakistan contest has been a battle between India’s batting and Pakistan bowling. Given the flat nature of wickets in the competition so far, I don’t see any threat for India

Gautam Gambhir

I think we have got a great chance to restore our pride in the final because of the way we lost the first match to India. It was humiliating how badly we lost that match and we can turn things around now. We must bat first if we win the toss. Our batting is not that good, our bowling is better

Imran Khan

If I talk fair, then yes, India at this time has a better team and more depth but I always believe that in a big match it is the moment that matters. What is important is how many players do you have in your team who are willing to put up their hands and perform on that day. I think Pakistan team has some good players who could be match winners

Javed Miandad

Pakistan has played as though it has nothing to lose, with a freedom to express its skills, which is commendable considering the situation it found itself in

Mike Hussey


Numbers game

  • 13-2 India’s win-loss record against Pakistan in ICC events. Pakistan still lead 72-52 in ODIs overall.
  • 34-7 India’s win-loss record in ICC events since January 2011. Pakistan’s, in comparison, is 20-16.
  • 5 Man of the Match awards for Kohli in only 17 matches against Pakistan in all formats. Kohli averages 96 in wins against them, and 7.20 in losses.
  • 1649 Shoaib Malik’s ODI aggregate vs India at an average of 48.50. Four of his nine hundreds and his highest ODI score have come against India.

 

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