In the cursory build-up to the ongoing World Cup in India, the ICC and the host had launched a unique branding of emotions that fans would experience at the tournament with a modified version of the ‘Navarasa’.
Elements of the nine emotions – joy, power, anguish, respect, pride, bravery, glory, wonder and passion – have been extravagantly placed across venues, and it’s no different in Chennai, one of 10 venues for this edition.
For Pakistan fans, however, the spectrum of emotions and reactions would have overflown that range of nine choices. A streak of three losses would have announced frustration. Speculations of internal rifts and Babar Azam’s captaincy future may have forced a few wrinkles among fans, who may have also experienced perplexity in the developments.
For Babar, his senior statesman Muhammad Rizwan, and the rest of the batch, resilience should have coursed through the veins ahead of the joust against South Africa at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
If Wednesday’s training session was anything to go by, it was a teaser of what would come. Pandemonium and emptiness were building through, and the Pakistan batting order exhibited minimal improvement in the first half of its sixth outing.
Having spent a good 45 minutes in the nets as the first batter in on Wednesday evening, Rizwan’s sole objective was to firm up his game against the high-arm action seamers of South Africa. Bowling coach Morne Morkel gently drew back the years as he sent down powerful deliveries.
The older, supple legs did the work from a shorter pitch, about 18 yards, as Rizwan toiled to get on top of the ball. That a 39-year-old Morkel looked the sharpest bowler and athlete in training summed up the Pakistan session. Morkel mixed up his lengths as Rizwan was consistently beaten while playing straight and across.
His session with the throwdown specialist was more in focus, with a definitive weakness to control the bouncer being the primal focus. Irrespective of the line of the quick ball from batting coach Andrew Puttick’s arm, Rizwan fixed on cutting every short delivery over the imaginary slip region and point. The hook and pull were handed a complete no-no with impressive resolve, even as his overall session rendered a shaky look.
Come game day, Rizwan put on the aggressor role from ball one after walking in at 38 for two to accompany Babar. It would have all frittered away with the first ball for Rizwan. Expecting a short delivery from the six-foot-seven-inch Marco Jansen, he was nearly squared up the first ball with the slower ball offering a caught-and-bowled opportunity.
A streaky uppercut was up next, with the ball flying over the slip cordon to third for four. An exchange of words between a flared-up Jansen and Rizwan was also undeniable.
Rizwan, perhaps, could not draw enough ‘determination’ from that exchange but continued his counter-attack to foil the Proteas bowlers. Rizwan may have had a go at almost every short-pitched ball from the pacers with mistimed hooks putting Babar and a wobbly middle-order under unwelcome pressure.
Unlike himself from the training session, an impulsive Rizwan could not abstain from going after the hook, and a well-directed bouncer from Gerald Coetzee proved to be his undoing –caught behind by Quinton de Kock off the top edge.
For all the restraint Babar showed against a well-planned South African attack, the skipper’s dismissal was also a peek back to the writing on the walls of the training facility the other day. Shortly after Rizwan’s stint on Wednesday, Babar opted for a session against spin, predominantly from the TNCA net bowlers.
Angling up for Keshav Maharaj, Babar took on a sprightly left-arm bowler, who kept needling at the edge and unsettled the star batter every time he opted for a sweep of the fuller side from good length. Babar reached a point of exhaustion wherein almost every delivery within 10 minutes chipped off the outside edge or trickled from the inner half of the blade to the on-side. He quickly shed his gear and jumped up to bowl light off-spin to his mates to put off a horrendous batting session.
While his second consecutive fifty of the tournament on Friday added few hopes to a straddling team on the brink of elimination, Babar would be most disappointed with the mode of his dismissal. Having faced nine deliveries at the non-striker’s end after getting to his half-century with a single, Babar’s inertia grew into a sense of impatience.
He attempted a lap-sweep to a fuller delivery from left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi and found a sturdy de Kock behind the stumps, all whilst a fine leg was lurking in the deep.
Babar was initially let off by the umpire, but a prudent de Kock egged on his captain Temba Bavuma for a review that would eventually see the back of his Pakistan counterpart.
Amidst another top-four blip, a lower-order upheaval led by Saud Shakeel and Shadab Khan helped Pakistan recover from 141 for five and lead the side to 270 in 50 overs.
However, it remains to be seen if the mercurial Men in Green, lacking nous from its big bats, can bid adieu to the Chennai shores with a blend of positive emotions from the flavoured ‘Navarasa’.
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