ADELAIDE: If Pakistan were looking for answers for its wretched losing streak against arch-rivals India in the World Cup, they need to cut to the chase and begin with the captain’s luck with the toss.
When Misbahul Haq called incorrectly before Sunday’s 76-run defeat at the Adelaide Oval, it was the fifth time in six World Cup outings that Pakistan had lost the toss to India.
In all those five games, Pakistan failed to chase down the target. The only time India batted second, at the Centurion in 2003, the genius of Sachin Tendulkar took the game away from Pakistan.
Former Pakistan captain Inzamamul Haq is convinced India’s luck with the toss has played a major role in its 6-0 scoreline against the old foes in the sport’s premier 50-over showpiece.
“I believe batting first is always an advantage as batsmen tend to get under pressure while chasing in big games,” Inzamam wrote in a guest column for the tournament’s official website.
“I can’t find a suitable word to describe what goes wrong when we chase against India, but it’s more like a mental blockage of players.”
On Sunday, after Virat Kohli’s 107 had set up a 301-run target, Pakistan folded up for 224 with only skipper Misbah contributing a valiant 76 off 84 balls.
In previous World Cup games against India, Pakistan failed to chase down totals of 216 in Sydney (1992), 287 in Bangalore (1996), 227 in Manchester (1999) and 260 in Mohali four years ago.
India’s latest win came without the reassuring presence of retired batting superstar Tendulkar, who had proved a stumbling block for Pakistan in at least four of the five previous encounters.
In 2003, Tendulkar tamed a star-studded pace battery of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to fashion India’s six-wicket win with a scintillating 98 off 75 balls after Pakistan had piled up 273-7.
Misbah was at a loss to explain another failure on Sunday.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “But it is important to forget this loss and look to the future. The game is gone now, so we have to just concentrate on the next one.”
Six straight losses will hurt more because Pakistan enjoy a superior overall one-day record over India, having won 72 games and lost 51.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had some comforting words for Pakistan, saying the unbeaten run would not stay for ever.
“This World Cup record is good and we are proud of it,” he said. “But a time will come when we will lose to them. This record won’t stay for the rest of our lives.”
That opportunity could come in the ongoing tournament itself if the two sides clash again in the semi-finals or the final.
In 1992 when the World Cup was held Down Under, Pakistan recovered from a 43-run loss to India in the league to win the tournament under Imran Khan.
Pakistan need to win at least three of their remaining five matches against South Africa, the West Indies, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe to confirm a quarter-final placing.
Former batting great Javed Miandad, the only other player besides Tendulkar to play in six World Cups, reminded the current squad that all was not lost yet.
“In a way it is good that Pakistan has got an early jitter,” said Miandad. “Pressure should be now off from their shoulders and they should concentrate on the remaining five group matches.”
Miandad blamed faulty selection for Sunday’s defeat, saying it was “mindboggling” to open the batting with veteran Younis Khan or drop specialist wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
“What is needed is to field the right combination and look for specialists instead of accommodating players who are not in form,” he wrote. “Remember Pakistan should come first and not the individuals.”
Pakistan next play the West Indies at Christchurch on Saturday.