The mood in the camps of the two sub-continental giants cannot be more different following what transpired during the highly-anticipated match between them yesterday at Adelaide Oval.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni regained his Midas touch, and every move he made yesterday paid off. On the other hand, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq made some key changes to his team, but most of them misfired.
So, while India will try to make the most of the winning momentum, it’s back to the drawing board for Misbah and the Pakistan team management. The two changes everyone is going to nail Misbah on, is promoting Younis Khan to the opener, and opting for Umar Akmal as the wicketkeeper ahead of regular gloveman Sarfraz Ahmed. Misbah’s reasons for making those changes are sound, but they didn’t work.
Sarfraz’s form with the bat has been poor since arriving in New Zealand, while Akmal played two solid knocks of 65 and 39 in the two practice matches against England and Bangladesh. Misbah wanted his ‘keeper to shoulder some batting responsibilities as well, but not only did Akmal get out for a duck, he also dropped the catch of Virat Kohli, who went on to score a century.
When Pakistan lost regular opener Mohammad Hafeez with an ankle injury before the tournament, the experienced Younis looked the sensible choice. However, the fact remains that Younis is not only a better batsman at No.4, but his trademark fidgety starts also makes him a suspect against the new ball.
The only thing Misbah can take satisfaction from was the performance of fast bowler Sohail Khan, who made a comeback into the side after last playing an ODI in September 2011. Khan was a surprise inclusion in the side, but he was impressive against India, especially when bowling the death overs.
Another point of concern for Pakistan was the performance of tall fast bowler Mohammad Irfan. The 7ft 1in player looked lively and threatening in his first spell, but started running over the batting surface in his second, which led to the umpire issuing him two warnings. A third warning would have ruled him out of the match as a bowler. And that affected him to such a large extent that Irfan was a shadow of his former self in the last couple of overs.
Coach Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed are experienced hands and they will have to sort out Irfan’s issue as soon as possible, because if the problems persist, Pakistan’s most incisive weapon would be blunted.
With injuries and suspensions, Pakistan were always expected to struggle with the balance of their team, but it is clear that they haven’t been able to sort it out.
As for Dhoni, he can take a deep breath and relax. He has undergone trying times as India lurched from one defeat to another in the Test matches and the Tri-series, but the worry lines on his head should fade away as this win was a step in the right direction.
Like Misbah did with Sohail Khan, Mohit Sharma seems to be delivering for Dhoni, who was criticized for picking up his Chennai Super King colleague. But Mohit showed some very good qualities as a bowler yesterday, maintaining a very good line and length being the foremost. All Dhoni needs to do now is try and maintain a similar level of confidence and performance in the second match against South Africa.
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