The streets of Ahmedabad were a sea of blue as spectators donning India colours turned up for the marquee ODI World Cup fixture against Pakistan at the 1,32,000-seater Narendra Modi Stadium on Saturday.
With just a handful of Pakistani fans and media personnel permitted to attend the most anticipated fixture of the tournament, the home team enjoyed the maximum crowd support as it pulled off a convincing seven-wicket victory over its archrival.
However, sitting in the opponent’s dressing room, Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur felt that it was more like a bilateral series. “It didn’t seem like an ICC event, to be pretty honest. It seemed like a bilateral series, like a BCCI event,” Arthur said after the match.
Usually, in every ICC event, fans from across the border turn up in large numbers to cheer for their team. But it was totally different this time around. “I didn’t hear ‘ Dil Dil Pakistan’ coming through the microphones too often. That does play a role, but I am not using that as an excuse because for us, it was about living in the moment, about the next ball, and about how we would combat the Indian players tonight,” Arthur said.
Asked whether fans should have been granted a visa for the big-ticket event, Arthur said with a sheepish smile, “I don’t want to get fined just yet. I don’t want to get fined…”
Echoing similar sentiments, the team’s head coach Grant Bradburn, said, “We are really sad that our supporters aren’t here, they would have loved to be here. I am sure Indian cricket fans would love our supporters here as well. It was certainly unusual in that way, no familiar music for us today. So it did not feel like a World Cup game, honestly…”
“We didn’t expect anything else. We love the occasion, and we are disappointed that we did not do justice to the occasion or justice to our many fans at home and globally,” the coach said.
With a dominating performance, India extended its unbeaten streak to 8-0 in the World Cup, but Arthur stressed that there was no need for his team to press the panic button just yet. “We are two from three (in terms of wins). So, we’re certainly not panicking yet. We’ll go back and analyse this game to the nth degree. We’ll have conversations about how we want to go forward. Australia is our next game, we’ll have conversations about them. We’ll look at conditions, and we’ll make selection decisions based on our strategy and conditions for the next game,” he said.
From cruising at 155 for 2, the Pakistan middle-order collapsed and was bundled out for 191. While Arthur promised to fix the errors, he was in no mood to blame anyone. “I just think we were a little timid tonight with our approach. I would’ve liked us to take the game on a little bit more. It’s a massive occasion, as we know. I think we just went into our shells a little bit. To go from 155 for two to 191 all out is just not on. Yes, credit to India; I thought they bowled really well, but I thought our performance was just a little timid,” he said, making it clear that he wasn’t thinking of a major shake-up.
“They’re classy performers. They’ve done it day in and day out for Pakistan over an extended period of time. So, I’m not going to sit here and castigate them for that. I thought we were a little timid. I did think that we could’ve taken on the Indian spinners just a little bit more,” Arthur said, referring to the performances by Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
“It was a wicket that didn’t turn massively. I thought we needed to put some pressure back (on India). But again, they (India) were building (pressure) and building nicely. I think we’ve got to realise that there are two ways to skin a cat. We have had success by taking it deep and then cashing in at the back end. That’s been our style. We didn’t play the Pakistan way tonight, and that was the disappointing aspect of it.”
Pakistan plays Australia next in Bengaluru on October 20.
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