Ahmedabad: India fired on all cylinders in what was supposed to be war minus the shooting, blowing away arch-rivals Pakistan by seven wickets in a World Cup face-off that ended in a damp squib after causing unbridled hysteria and logistical hassles.
In what is seen as the pinnacle of cricket by fans in the subcontinent, Indian captain Rohit Sharma emerged as the undisputed star of the match, scoring a 63-ball 86 to power his team to the modest target of 192 with as many as 19.3 overs to spare.
Jasprit Bumrah was a tiger on the prowl and Mohammed Siraj displayed wolf-like aggression before skipper Rohit completed the annihilation as India produced a near-perfect performance in one of the most lopsided World Cup games between the arch-rivals.
Rohit just casually flaunted his repertoire of strokes, which included a pull shot behind square of Shaheen Shah Afridi and a square driven six off Haris Rauf, as India were home by 8.05 pm local time.
The win was India’s eighth in the 50 over global event, where Pakistan had never been able to match their neighbours in terms of skill, strategy or execution since 1992.
Just like he brushes his teeth, drinks water, pulling and hooking is a part of Rohit’s daily chores.
The 1150 gram willow is an extension of his arm and those strong but supple wrists does its job at his beck and call.
On the day, it responded to his call 12 times – six of which went over the ropes.
People love to err on side of caution but Rohit is ready to err on side of risk – whether its spin of coin or dismissing a fast bouncer from his presence.
There will be days when he might fail and look silly but on days he succeeds, he would look regal, like he did on Saturday.
Bowlers’ day out: It is very difficult to better perfection but if anything was synonymous with perfection, then decimating Pakistan for 192 in 42.5 overs would come closest.
Five bowlers, showing different facets of bowling and sharing equal spoils is rarity but there couldn’t have been a more opportune setting to tick all boxes like Rohit’s men did on the day.
Bumrah (2/19 in 7 overs), Siraj (2/50 in 8 overs), Kuldeep (2/35 in 10 overs), Hardik Pandya (2/34 in 6 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/35 in 9.5 overs) were relentless in their pursuit of choking the opposition into submission.
This Pakistan team never had the depth to compete with India and that one T20 World Cup game which India lost in Dubai back in 2021 was just an aberration.
For the 1 lakh plus spectators at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the garba started one day in advance and the story of this absolute dominance by India will be remembered for times to come.
For the rest of the country, Bengal can celebrate an early Durga Puja and in the northern part of India, it could an early Diwali.
Motera was the Indian cricket fan’s the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ on Saturday.
One could be swayed by such atmosphere but just like Rohit, his team has also learnt the art of staying in its bubble.
It was imposing and in-your-face and at times intimidating.
The vibe was felt when the entire stadium sang the national anthem.
Siraj and Bumrah basically hoodwinked the Pakistan batters with the semi-old ball and a bagful of tricks for which they had no answer.
This was Pakistan’s second lowest score against India in ODI World Cup after the 180 all-out in 1999.
The two new ball bowlers made the semi-new ball talk by altering the length and using the wobbly seam to run through a circumspect middle-order and put India on course of their eighth victory in ODI World Cups.
Kuldeep’s role as the supporting protagonist was also laudable as he operated like a sly fox, removing Saud Shakeel (6) and Iftikhar Ahmed (4) in quick succession to hasten the slide.
Rohit’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss might have raised a few eye-brows but the Indian team always had things under control despite a 82-run third wicket stand between skipper Babar Azam (50 off 58 balls) and Mohammed Rizwan (49 off 69 balls).
It was a matter of one wicket and once Siraj got one to just move in a shade from a shorter length, the Pakistan skipper misjudged it completely and remained rooted to his crease trying to steer it to third man. The sound of timber was what the entire Motera wanted to hear.
Rizwan, on cusp of his half-century got a wobbly seam slow off-cutter from Bumrah (2/19 in 7 overs), which entered through the gap between bat and pad as Pakistan’s resistance ended at that moment. Babar and Rizwan had a partnership going but if one looks at how the ODI landscape has changed, they were well behind par during the stand.
With two new Kookaburras used from both sides, the balls don’t generally get old but the two Indian pacers, on a flat track, altered the length suitably to make the inroads at the right junctures.
In case of Kuldeep, he knew Saud and Iftikhar aren’t good at sweeping and it brought about their downfall. It only helped that Jadeja was parsimonious at the other end.
When the Indian innings commenced, it wasn’t a question of how but when will they wrap up things. Rohit ensured it happened in a jiffy.