World Cup: India proving a point, yet again against Pakistan

For the past several years India has been walloping Pakistan not just in cricket but also in another sport that raises the temperatures in both the countries — hockey.

Indian team members celebrate after defeating arch-rival Pakistan in a group match of the 2019 cricket World Cup at Old Trafford in Manchester.   -  AFP

The much-hyped game between India and Pakistan was once again nothing but a damp squib. The ultra-nationalists from both the countries always see the encounter as one that decides which country is superior to the other and therefore the hullabaloo that is generated is deafening, especially if, by mistake, one switches on the TV. If only things were as simple as that.

For the past several years, India has been walloping Pakistan not just in cricket but also in another sport that raises the temperatures in both the countries — hockey. Yes, India has lost occasionally. After all, even the great Roger Federer and Tiger Woods don’t win every time. That said, when India beat Pakistan in the Asia Cup even when skipper Virat Kohli wasn’t playing, it proved that India was, by far, the superior team in recent times.

The clash puts more pressure on the Pakistan players than their Indian counterparts because it is simply a must-win game for them. In the past when Pakistan had lost to India, the players had to change their flight plans, stay on in another country and then return to Pakistan when tempers have cooled down considerably. Thankfully, India does not react violently to a loss to Pakistan, though there will be the odd hot-headed idiot who will accuse the team of being bribed to lose, which is much like judging people by their own low standards.

The cricket World Cup in England hasn’t quite got the attention an event of this magnitude deserves. That maybe because it is not on free-to-air TV but on satellite TV, which not many seem to have in the UK. The print media is also devoting more pages to the women’s football World Cup than the cricket World Cup. Yes, England is more into football than cricket, so that is understandable to an extent, but the coverage has been lopsided, to say the least.

Rafael Nadal had recently won a record 12th French Open title and his 18th Grand Slam overall. The next few months will be worth watching as he tries to bridge the gap and equal his great rival and good friend Roger Federer, who has 20 Grand Slam titles.   -  Reuters

Sri Lanka's win over England has suddenly brought life back into the World Cup which till then was moving on predictable lines with England, Australia, India and New Zealand looking like the semi-finalists. That may still happen but England will now have to bring their A game as they have the very same three teams India, Australia and New Zealand as their final three matches of the round robin of the World Cup. They lose all three they could be out of the World Cup but they win all three they go into the semi-finals with their confidence and self- belief at its highest.

India have played outstanding cricket so far and the way they have gone about it has been awe inspiring. There is a confidence bordering on arrogance that great teams have and this Indian team has that. One can see the awe, respect and no little fear in the eyes of their opponents when the teams come out to do their warm-ups before the start of the match. In fact that was what differentiated the Indian and Pakistani team when they came out for the looseners before the game.

There is a confidence bordering on arrogance that great teams have and this Indian team seems to have just that. Before the India-Pakistan clash, the Pakistani players looked tense and tight as they came down from their change rooms with barely a smile on their faces while the Indian players came down happy, smiling and joking with each other. The Indian team was also down for the warm-ups much before the Pakistanis, who seemed reluctant even to come down for that. Yes, it was a bit chilly at the start, but that is no excuse because there was another subcontinent team also playing the same game and the players were quite happy to come down to the pitch side and get acclimatised to the wind and weather in Manchester.

In sport, body language often gives away the state of mind of the players and on that day the Pakistani team’s body language was negative, to say the least. Clearly, the players would have wanted to be anywhere else rather than at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Meanwhile, in tennis, Rafael Nadal has won another French Open singles title, the 12th time he has done so and he is now on 18 major titles, just two behind the non-pareil Roger Federer.

The next few months will be worth watching as he tries to bridge the gap and equal his great rival and good friend Roger. Sadly, if both are playing the All England final, it will be clashing with the final of the ICC cricket World Cup, and if India is in the final, not many in the country will be watching two of the greatest players in tennis battle it out for the title.