If Mahendra Singh Dhoni has his way, he may never want to play an India-Pakistan ODI at the Eden Gardens. Not that it has got anything to do with the spectators who came in thousands to cheer the home team but returned disappointed. India have now lost all the matches between the two nations held here since 1987. On the other hand, wouldn’t Pakistan love to play in Kolkata?
For India, Thursday’s 85-run loss was certainly not an ideal start to the new year. It has rendered the final ODI in Delhi on January 6 inconsequential. India could not have asked for a better target than 251 on a true, sporting surface. Their bowlers rose to the occasion after Dhoni won the toss and chose to bowl under overcast conditions. But a collective failure with the bat resulted in the visitors walking away with the series, which is believed to be the first step towards reviving cricketing ties between the two nations.
The prospect of a series win brought the Pakistan support staff and the reserve players out in the open, near the boundary line. They did not mind the chilly winter evening and soaked in the atmosphere of a packed Eden.
The way India began, with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir seeing off Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan’s early overs, the crowd had a reason to smile. But the moment Gambhir, struggling with his game, dragged Junaid Khan’s inswinging delivery from outside the off stump, the slide began.
Although Gambhir was edgy, Sehwag looked in supreme touch, standing up and driving the gigantic Irfan through covers and ferociously cutting the same bowler to third man for fours.
The spectators had prayers on their lips, hoping that 2013 would bring in good form to the openers. But that was not to be.
Junaid continued from where he left off in Chennai and got tremendous support from Umar Gul. Poor shot selection and their inability to read Saeed Ajmal resulted in a massive collapse. India folded up for 165 and succumbed to a heavy defeat.
Earlier, India’s bowlers put up an impressive show after Pakistan’s openers Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez posted a century stand.
Jamshed, who looked good only in patches in the previous match in Chennai, was very confident from the outset. The left-hander loves playing against India. He notched up his third successive ODI hundred against India: the 106 on Thursday, the unbeaten 101 in Chennai and the 112 in Dhaka last March.
From 141 for no wicket, Pakistan crashed to 250. Ravindra Jadeja,
R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma stifled the scoring to peg Pakistan back. The landed the breakthroughs at regular intervals as Pakistan somehow managed to lose their way.
With the bowlers doing the job, all the Indian batsmen had to do was complement their efforts. But the fact that they didn’t raises some serious questions. Sehwag and Gambhir’s form should be the talking point in the days to follow.