India vs Pakistan general thoughts
An eagerly anticipated match between two cricketing giants, ended up being rather one sided, as Pakistan cruised to victory. Chasing down the 152 runs India set them, without losing a wicket. The toss was won by Pakistan and unsurprisingly they chose to bowl, considering the impact dew has had in the second innings of night games.
There weren’t really any surprises with team selections. I would’ve wanted Haider Ali in this Pakistan but based on warm up games that seemed unlikely, Pakistan instead opting to go with Malik. If they’re going to go down this route, which I strongly disagree with, then I at least hope they switch the batting positions of Hafeez and Malik. Based on what we saw in warm up games, it’ll be Hafeez at 4 & Malik at 5, a switch would suit each of their skillsets slightly better; Hafeez a better power/death overs hitter and Malik is a stronger player of spin, mainly from an avoiding dismissals point of view, rather than attacking spin. This isn’t a quality Pakistan really need in their line up but alas, it seems like they’re going to go with it regardless.
From an Indian perspective, no Shardul Thakur was maybe the only slight surprise. It probably would’ve made their bowling weaker, though I’m not sure Thakur is any worse than this current version of Bhuvi or Shami and it would’ve added a bit of extra batting depth for India.
This current India set up is flawed. In the sense they don’t have any hitting quality beyond Jadeja at 7 and they don’t have any bowling options in their top six batters. A dreadful combination to have in t20’s. In contrast with Pakistan, as their top six bowling option, they’ve got Hafeez, who’s an excellent match up bowler. As for bowlers that can provide batting, Imad is limited but is better than any of India’s options and as a LHB can be thrown up the order to counter spin match ups. They’ve also got Hassan Ali, one of the best boundary hitters, that’s also a frontline bowler. Even Haris Rauf has shown hitting ability in games this year.
While India might have the greater overall ability in their side, Pakistan are a better constructed t20 side, despite making a few mistakes themselves.
Pakistan’s powerplay burst - Mainly through Shaheen, Pakistan really upset the structure of India’s innings with early breakthroughs. Shaheen was at the double and had two wickets in his first two overs; grabbing Rohit and KL Rahul. A masterclass in new ball bowling. Imad Wasim bowled a couple of tight overs and Hassan Ali then got an important wicket in the final over of the powerplay. A wicket at this point was key, it came after a mini re-build from India and there’s no doubt Suryakumar Yadav would’ve looked to accelerate against spin had he still been at the crease.
This subsequently impacted how Rishabh Pant had to play at the start of his innings. If a partnership between Sky/Kohli had dragged on for 2–3 more overs, Pant would’ve had more freedom to be more aggressive in the initial part of his innings. As it happened, Pant started slowly and took 15 balls to score his first boundary.
Babar’ bowling decisions - Babar Azam got his bowling changes spot on, though you could argue it’s easier to do when your team is on. Nevertheless I think there were a number of things Babar got spot on today:
- Giving Shaheen three powerplay overs - Sensing that Shaheen was on a bit of a roll, Babar decided to give him three overs in the powerplay. A slight risk but worth it, given India’s batting line up ends at 7, wickets in three consecutive overs for Shaheen would’ve caused India so many problems.
- Bowling match ups to target Pant, rather than Kohli - Babar only bowled two overs of orthodox spin outside of the powerplay. This was through Hafeez, a match up brought in to target Pant, who has more potential to be destructive against spin. Avoiding the temptation to bowl Imad, who’s a better bowler, was a good decision.
- Delaying the introduction of Haris Rauf - Rauf wasn’t introduced until the 11th over, another good move in my view. Rauf is far more effective towards the back end of an innings and in his two death overs today, went for only 10 runs.
Promise from Pant? - Pant came to the crease in an extremely difficult situation, with the score at 31/3 in the sixth over. India were facing an uphill task to re-build their innings and Pant would have to go against his instincts, playing slightly more cautiously, at least to start his innings. After scoring only five runs from his first 10 balls, Pant got going and finished with 39 (30), all of this while Pakistan were using match ups to target him, rather than Kohli. Impressive acceleration that gave India a bit of a chance.
Jadeja’s promotion - It’s difficult to truly assess Jadeja as a player of spin. If you just looked at stats, it’d give a fairly clear cut answer; average of 30 and strike rate of under 90 since 2018. Although you need to consider that most of the situations he’s faced spin in, will be during a collapse. Having said that, I’m not sure he’s that capable of attacking against spin, which made it a bizarre decision to promote Jadeja above Hardik. Unless he was instructed to play with intent against spin from ball one, which he clearly wasn’t, as he made a run a ball 13. All of this meant Hardik faced his first delivery in the 19th over, far too late for him to have any sort of considerable impact.
India sucked into going for a ‘competitive score’ - Partly ties in with the last points. In my opinion the Jadeja promotion was a negative move, as they played their conservative option, looking to make sure they took their innings deeper if you like. Searching for what looked to be an average/par score, rather than taking more risks and trying to reach a score 15–20 runs above par. Knowing Pakistan have such a reliable opening partnership, they should know how well-equipped Pakistan are when it comes to chasing middling totals. The fact it was their first game of a tournament could have played a part in their decision.
Babar/Rizwan duo - Not elite as individuals but as a partnership they might be? They understand each others games so well and it should get better. Essentially; Rizwan takes more risk in powerplay’s, Babar’ ability against spin shines through the middle and both look to accelerate if they’re in at the death. This was the splits from today’s game:
This was basically an extension on what we’ve already seen from these two as a duo in 2021:
Of course, it highlights the purple patch Rizwan is going through. Such ridiculous levels of reliability are unsustainable but the general approach to each innings will remain similar in my opinion.
Ideally, Babar will grow more confident in his attacking game against spin and start to take it on slightly earlier, rather than consolidating during the first half of the middle overs phase. I’m being picky though and a strike in the 120’s during that phase isn’t terminal, depending on the situation. If batting first, these two a smart enough to adapt, if they’ve got off to a strong start and need to accelerate, Rizwan will look to go crazy.
Are they a perfect combination for every team? No. However, for this Pakistan side, who have a very good bowling line up, they’re pretty close to being an ideal partnership at the top of the order. Long term, if Pakistan can identify an extremely attacking opener in their system to partner Rizwan, with Babar at 3, it could make them an even better side. Someone in the mould of a Gurbaz-type player would be perfect, a high upside player, that would take risks and wouldn’t dramatically disrupt the Babar/Rizwan partnership by wasting too many balls up top.
Pakistan have given themselves a very good chance of making the semi-finals, winning their toughest group game, they’d have to play some seriously average cricket to not get at least two wins from their next four matches, which will likely be enough to make the semi-finals.
As for India, they could tinker with their balance and there’s also the possibility that Hardik Pandya suffered another injury, he went for scans after batting. Shardul Thakur and Ishan Kishan remain the most likely candidates to earn a place in the XI, if India decide to make changes.
India shouldn’t panic though, they’ve still got the overall quality to win the required amount of games and are in an easier group. They aren’t a perfect side by any means but neither are any other teams in this compeititon.
Thanks for reading!