Everything went according to plan for Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co in the Asia Cup. Batsmen flourished, bowlers stood up to the challenge and fielders rarely floundered as they claimed the title for the sixth time to assert their superiority in Asia.
The latest triumph, coming on the back of the 3-0 high in Australia in January and a 2-1 success at home against Sri Lanka last month, puts India in the right frame of mind for the upcoming World Twenty20.
Having shown such imperious form home fans will be justified in expecting nothing less than a title in the global tournament.
Their ability to overcome tough situations will be the biggest takeaway from this tournament.
They were tested by Pakistan in the league phase and Bangladesh in the final but they came out of those difficult phases smelling of roses.
Virat Kohli once again proved why he is currently the hottest property in international cricket with a standout display against Mohammad Amir during a tense chase against Pakistan.
He extended that to the final Sunday with a determined approach and stayed until the finish to see India through.
While everything went swimmingly for the Indians, hosts Bangladesh have every reason to hold their heads high despite the defeat in the final.
The 10th-ranked team repeatedly punched above their weight upsetting former World Twenty20 champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
They were the most disciplined bowling unit in the tournament and did not concede a single extra in the crunch games against Pakistan and India.
It is a shame they have to go through a qualifying round at the World Twenty20 before they can join the big teams in the Super 10 but expect the Tigers to roar in India as well.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be disappointed with their performances but they can take solace in the knowledge that pitches at the World Twenty20 will be far different to the spicy strips laid out in Dhaka.
The tracks in India will play to their strengths and will be to their batsmen and spinners’ liking. But that also applies to the rampaging Indians, which makes them overwhelming favourites to regain the crown they last won in South Africa, nine years ago.
It is not as if Dhoni’s side don’t possess any weaknesses, especially in a format where the complexion of a game can change in a flash.
Indian bowlers can be taken for runs in the slog overs as Bangladesh batsmen proved yesterday by creaming 45 in the last 20 balls while Amir showed that with tact and skill their hugely successful top order can be prised open.
However, unlike most other teams who are still struggling to find the right combinations, India enter the tournament with the perfect line-up suited for home conditions.
More importantly almost every member of the squad now has considerable match time under his belt to be fully prepared for any eventuality. They are also high on confidence having won 10 out of 11 games this year.
Another aspect that puts them in the driver’s seat is the captaincy where MS Dhoni towers over the rest with his immense knowledge, tact and experience.
It will not be a surprise if India win the World Twenty20 title, but it will be a big upset if they don’t.
A record partnership between David Warner and Glenn Maxwell spurred Australia to a last-ball victory in the second one-day international against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
Australia’s win by five wickets levelled the three-match series to set up a decider in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Set a daunting 205 to win, Australia were in deep trouble at 32 for three after 5.4 overs.
But Warner (77) and Maxwell (75) thrashed the bowlers in a world record fourth wicket stand of 161 off 87 balls.
“They batted with great composure and played some great cricket shots,” said Australian captain Steve Smith.
“They summed up the situation really well.”
South African captain Faf du Plessis admitted: “That partnership blew us away.”
Du Plessis added: “There are small margins when two teams are playing good cricket. There were one or two things in the field that we could have done better. Two full tosses towards the end cost us.”
Both full tosses, by Chris Morris and Dale Steyn, were called no-balls, giving the batsmen free hits.
There was a twist in the tail, though, as Maxwell was caught off the fifth ball of the 19th over and Warner was yorked by Kagiso Rabada off the first ball of the final over.
James Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh got their side home to set up a series decider in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Two runs were needed off the last ball and Marsh was able to hit the ball past Rabada for the winning runs.
Man of the match Warner made 77 off 40 balls with six fours and five sixes, while Maxwell’s career-best 75 was scored off 43 balls with seven fours and three sixes.
Du Plessis anchored an aggressive South African batting performance, hitting 79 off 41 balls in a total of 204 for seven after they were sent in to bat.
Left-arm seamer Faulkner was outstanding for Australia, taking three for 28 in four overs while most of his team-mates took some heavy punishment.
Smith said at the toss that the Wanderers, a renowned limited overs batting paradise, was a ground where a batting team never knew how many runs were enough.
South Africa’s approach from the start suggested they believed they needed at least 200.
A succession of batsmen played big shots, scored quickly and got out, while Du Plessis played more circumspectly before slamming two sixes and two fours off the first four balls of the last over, bowled by John Hastings, before he was caught in the deep.
Du Plessis hit five sixes and five fours in a 41-ball innings.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion, shared solely with Sport360.com, Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq looks back on his winning experienced with Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League.
He also discusses the problems Pakistan Cricket face, this month’s World T20 competition in India and how he will keep himself fresh to tour England later this year.
How would you sum up your experience playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL)?
It was a wonderful experience. As you know, we have been waiting for a long time for this league to take concrete shape. Our players had been playing in different leagues around the world but there was something missing, the enjoyment and satisfaction of playing in our own league wasn’t there at all. As you could see from the way the international and domestic players played, the audience enjoyed the competition and it was a complete success.
At what point during the tournament did you start to feel that you could win the PSL?
We were a little worried in the initial stages of the tournament when we were struggling. We felt at that point that we needed to pick ourselves up and move forward which is what we did. So once we got to the play-offs, we knew it was a matter of three games before we could lift the trophy. We also had the comfort of knowing that the team had some quality match-winners in our midst; people who had won finals of various tournaments around the world. In this list, we can mention Shane Watson, Samuel Badree, Andre Russell and Azhar Mahmood who have all been part of successful campaigns in the past and have been involved in big victories around the world. Then we had some top domestic performers, with Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif, who all added to the positive feeling in the camp.
So with this talent, all we needed to do was generate some good performances. Add to that the fact we had little time to prepare for the tournament and players were literally flying in from different parts of the world, we needed some time to form the perfect combination. Once all of this clicked into place and we won games, we started to feel that the prospects were looking better. Our bowling and top-order batting was getting into gear and regaining its rhythm and we felt that we had a good chance to go all the way, which we did.
What was it like working with legend Wasim Akram at the tournament in the UAE?
Simply speaking, it adds a lot of confidence to any side which has someone like Wasim Akram available for advice. When the players know that they have the backing and advice of one of the greatest players and a World Cup winner, then the players in ours or any team for that matter, will be filled with confidence. Apart from refining players’ skills, he helped us with the mental side of cricket throughout the tournament and all the way until we lifted the trophy.
The PSL showed that Pakistan is producing some good spinners, but equally it showed the dearth of quality batsmen. Is this a source of concern?
Overall it’s a concern for Pakistan Cricket. We have always been very strong in our bowling department and simply put, the quality of our bowlers far exceeds that of our batsmen. This is one area which we really need to improve upon. I believe that the PSL will help us develop better batsmen over the next few years as our newer as well as more experienced batsmen will continue to improve playing under such conditions. The exposure and interaction with foreign players will be beneficial too. But, yes, I am concerned about the fact that our batsmen in the PSL were not as effective as they should have been, especially when compared to the other overseas players who also took part in the tournament. This has to improve in the coming years.
What changes would you like to see in the next edition of the event?
I am sure the PCB have some good ideas about improving the concept for next season. In my view, the addition of one or two more teams in order to allow more of our domestic players, local coaches and domestic staff to get exposure on this stage would be brilliant. Of course that will also mean that more foreign players will come into the mix as well which will make the competition even more interesting and beneficial for more of our younger players. If we can also look to shift some games to Pakistan next year, then that would really make it more enjoyable for Pakistani fans who cannot travel overseas to watch their players in action and that would be a great achievement for our cricketing nation.
I also feel that in this edition, the matches were arranged with a very tight schedule. I understand that it is very tough to come up with a perfect schedule given international tour commitments by various boards and their players. However, if some consideration can be given to this point, then it will reduce the danger of injury to players which was something we noticed a lot. Obviously if there are less injuries then the quality of games will be increase and that will be great for the spectators as well.
What are your views about the concept of mentors associated with teams? Is it actually beneficial?
Yes, in my view, it does make a difference to have mentors associated with the teams. Having said that, some teams even have coaches who were great players themselves. If you take the example of Wasim Akram who was our coach, then you can see that he is quite capable of acting as a mentor in addition to his coaching role. I think the real role of the mentor is to help boost the confidence of players and this was visible in the way Sir Vivian Richards’ presence helped the Quetta Gladiators. I am not saying all teams should have one but some teams can bring in such personalities and use them to their own advantage.
What are your impressions so far of Mohammad Amir’s re-integration and his return to international cricket?
He bowled really well in the Bangladesh Premier League and in the PSL, as well as the Asia Cup. I am totally satisfied with his performances so far and his attitude on the field gives me no cause for concern. Amir can become a great for Pakistan in the coming years.
The next big challenge for Amir is Pakistan’s upcoming three-month tour of England, and quite frankly, no one really knows what to expect in terms of what he will face from the crowd and media. The board and the team management will need to think carefully about how to handle and manage any complications which could arise from this matter.
Given the controversy surrounding Pakistan’s last tour to England, how important is it for this tour to be blemish free?
I believe all we need to do is to go out there and concentrate on playing the best cricket we can. This will be a challenging tour for us as England are a very tough team to beat in their own backyard. We will need to play some excellent cricket and only by playing almost beyond our potential can we make sure that the emphasis is on cricket and nothing else. All other considerations will then be swept aside.
Pakistan are scheduled to be heading to India for the ICC World T20 tournament this month – is there a part of you wishing you were in that squad?
Nothing of that sort has crossed my mind as it’s too late now and it has been a little more than four years since I last played a T20I game. Having said that, when I retired from T20Is in 2012, I did feel that I could have played a little more for my country but that is now in the past. For now, we all have to get behind our team and the captain, and I wish them all the best .
Do you think Pakistan has the ability to win the World T20?
Despite the disappointing results in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, I do believe that Pakistan have a good chance of going all the way in the World Twenty20. In fact, their chances have improved a lot due to the PSL where the team management and selectors were handed an excellent opportunity to create a combination of in-form experienced and younger players. This can really help Pakistan as such tournaments can start to build a winning momentum, with players’ confidence improving and skills being sharpened.
The timing of the Asia Cup is ideal for the simple fact that the Pakistan team gets a good chance to play and get some good match practice ahead of the trip to India. I have always maintained that our team has great potential and an excellent chance to win the World T20, especially as it is being played in the sub-continent.
Shahid Afridi has suggested that he may continue to play for Pakistan after the World T20, do you think that would be a wise decision?
This is a personal decision and it is really up to Shahid Afridi as to how he feels about the situation. He is an experienced player who knows his game inside-out and he also understands how much commitment he has left in him and what he can give to the Pakistan team. All of these considerations are important for any player when it is time to make such a crucial decision.
How much longer do you see yourself playing for Pakistan?
To tell you the truth, I don’t really know how long I can continue to play for Pakistan. All I can say is, that at the moment, my thoughts are all about the tour of England this summer. As you know, I had planned to retire at the end of the England series in the UAE or after playing against India in a series which didn’t materialize.
However, I have paid attention for calls from the PCB and others for me to accompany the team to England this summer as that will be a difficult series and the team will need my support and guidance. So I am looking forward to playing against England, which will be a huge personal challenge for me. I will consider my options after that series. It is possible that I may go on to play another few series after that but once again, I don’t want to look too far ahead into the future at this point. Obviously the tour against Australia is also on the horizon, but I will consider all of these options after we are done with the tour of England.
Are you feeling the pressure from your well-wishers and the media for a decision on your retirement?
It goes without saying that one does take into account the thoughts and wishes of people around you. I do give some weight to such advice but regardless of what the advice is, it is down to me to decide on this matter based on a few considerations such as what exactly I can contribute to the success of my team and whether the team needs my expertise or not. If I ever feel that I am no longer contributing to the team then that would be the time to move on.