The Champions Trophy 2017 Final couldn’t have had a better match-up: the defending champions India taking on a Pakistan side who were vying for the only trophy they hadn’t won. We had talked up the Final as a mismatch and in the end, it played out as one. Not in recent times in a major ODI tournament has an underdog upstaged every favourite—South Africa, England and India—en route to winning the trophy, making this one of the great sporting stories that you will witness and talk about for many years to come. What we can also learn and remind ourselves is that being an underdog is not bad. Team India, along with the likes of Pakistan, went into the inaugural World Twenty20 Championship as underdogs. But with no weight of expectations, MS Dhoni’s India created history by beating Shoaib Malik’s men in the Final.
We had said and thought in the build-up that Team India had everything Pakistan didn’t: temperament required for a big occasion, the experience of handling the crunch moments in a big match and Virat Kohli, including himself, having more than a handful of match-winners at his disposal. How wrong have we been proved in the end by the Men in Green? The smaller aspects had the bigger say in proceedings on the day of the Final, with India gifting their arch-rivals 16 avoidable extra runs (13 wides and 3 no-balls), failing to hit the stumps on numerous occasions and then failing to see off the threat of Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan with the new ball.
Despite Pakistan’s performance over 80.3 overs, their detractors and Indian fans will continue to harp on Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball in the fourth over the match. And they won’t be wrong. But what you cannot deny is India didn’t create a lot of wicket-taking opportunities, as Kohli said at the presentation, and they also failed to take the chances on the field with Azhar Ali, Zaman and Babar Azam pinching easy singles at the start and during the middle overs of their innings. India were extremely bad in all departments at the most inopportune time and they have been made to pay a heavy price by one of the unfancied teams in the tournament.
Hardik Pandya’s all-round showing and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s measly 10-over spell of 1/44 were the only two positives for the former champions. Pandya, of whom not a lot was expected with the ball, bowled an extremely tight spell of 1/53 in 10 overs, on a day three of the frontline bowlers not only failed to create wicket-taking opportunities but also keep a lid on the scoring. The Baroda all-rounder had gone for just 41 runs in his first nine overs and got India the massive wicket of Zaman in the 34th over and with Pakistan at 200. Pandya made a 43-ball 76 and just for a two-over period from the 23rd over onwards, the Mumbai Indians man gave a feeling that all might not be lost yet. He was fighting a lost cause and a miscommunication with Ravindra Jadeja cost him his wicket, having shared an 80-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
India went into their title defence with every base covered. And after the blip against Srilanka, they produced two complete performances to reach the Final. Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja had disappointing tournaments, and their performances in the Final, in particular, hurt India badly. Ashwin went for 70 runs in his 10 overs and Jadeja haemorrhaged 67 runs in his eight-over spell, giving Kohli two massive headaches. The Indian captain chose to bowl Jadhav from the 39th over onwards, to make up for Jadeja’s quota of overs. And, needless to say, on top of the left-arm spinner conceding 67 runs, the Maharashtra batsmen gave away 27 runs in his three overs, the last of which cost him and India 16 runs.
Despite Pakistan’s deserved victory, from an Indian perspective, Kohli and co. will probably not get a similar chance to win a competition as the Champions Trophy. This is an unforgiving tournament and as England found out, if you are not on top of your game come the semi-final and Final, your performances until this point count for nothing. With heavyweights such as Australia and South Africa dropping out of the tournament at the group stage, this was India’s best chance to add another trophy to their cabinet and improve on their recent pedigree in ICC tournaments. India had won two of the three Finals they had been part of since 2011 and they could have won their third major trophy in the last seven years.
Though the senior Indian cricketers were having a chuckle with their victorious Pakistani counterparts after the loss, deep down, this loss will hurt. For, India might never have a better chance to win a competition as this and a major trophy.
Are you disappointed and what are your thoughts about India’s loss in the Final?