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A captain’s knock, bowlers on target and a packed crowd: India makes it 8-0 in style

The Indian juggernaut keeps marching ahead. In a vital World Cup game imbued with history’s quirks and hype’s stifling embrace, the Men in Blue remained clinical while vanquishing Pakistan here on Saturday. A quiet confidence was evident right from the moment Rohit Sharma won the toss and opted to field.

In a cricketing era where no target seems unsurmountable, it was a brave choice to prefer a breathless pursuit against the arch-rival when scoreboard pressure in a full house could twist the narrative. It so happened that the sheer brilliance of the Indian bowlers in the middle overs overwhelmed Babar Azam’s men and restricted them to 191 on a 300-plus deck.

In ODIs, the middle overs can drift, and it is up to the captain to arrest this siesta mode. Rohit precisely did that, bringing back Mohammed Siraj, pressing Kuldeep Yadav into service, and also unleashing Jasprit Bumrah. The way Babar and Mohammad Rizwan were batting until then, it looked as though the two had settled for a long meal at Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar.

The shot selection could have been better, but credit is due to the relentless Indian attack that triggered an eight-for-36 collapse within the Pakistani ranks.

The fact that five Indian bowlers picked two wickets apiece was a reflection of the existing synergy, and it also helped Rohit use Shardul Thakur for a mere two overs. That barring a Shaheen Afridi-blistering-spell India was bound to win was evident at the innings break.

Once Rohit whipped Afridi’s first ball for four, India was on course during a special night at the Narendra Modi Stadium. It was equally heartening to witness Shubman Gill’s return to cricket following a dengue-induced break. He took a fine catch, and when he batted, a cameo at that, his fours were the kind that would have made Ranjitsinhji sigh in heaven. The shots had a panache and a distinct Indian touch.

Virat Kohli too was fluent, and even if he and Gill fell on an identical score of 16, not much should be read into their soft dismissals. But the man of the moment was Rohit.

Life truly has come full circle for him. From being dropped from the 2011 World Cup squad to now leading India in the premier championship, and that too at home, is a remarkable turnaround. His 86 had the signature Rohit moments. The seemingly effortless sixes, those delicate cuts and vanilla-melting drives were all there.

Shreyas Iyer too, chipped in with an unbeaten 53.

It was a commanding performance by India before it heads to Pune for the game against Bangladesh on Thursday. If there was a sour note, it remained beyond the ropes, especially in the stands that turned mute when Pakistani batters scored a four or the visiting bowlers claimed the odd wicket.

Worse was the patronising advertisement propped up by a travel portal, which found its copy-cats from other travel-linked firms on X (previously Twitter). Fandom should not have any space for toxic juxtapositions. Let sport be!


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