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Unexpected Outcome

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Be it sport or war, it all matters what happens on the day the actual contest takes place. A brilliant performance by some individual, a stubborn stand by some outpost expected to be run over easily by the generals, can affect the outcome. This is why it is important not to underestimate anybody and be always prepared at the psychological level. Pakistan’s victory against India in the T20 Cricket World Cup belongs to that class of event. They surprised India by the quality of their performance, which was unexpected, as the team – despite some established outstanding performers like Babar Azam – was not rated very high owing to a number of reasons. An IPL jaded India could not recover entirely from the early blows, nor could match the rival team’s bowling performance.

The victory will have raised the morale of the Pakistani people who have had very little going for them in the past few years. The economy is in a mess; terrorism and radicalism are on the rise; the ‘civilian’ government is under even more severe pressure from the Army; eternal friend China is greatly disillusioned and distancing itself; and the negative obsession with India continues. The withdrawal by the New Zealand Cricket team from its tour and, then, the English, had hurt egos very badly. Sunday’s show will have applied much needed balm to the wound.

Every tournament India and Pakistan take part in provides these nations a twin challenge – winning the title and defeating the traditional rival. From that point of view, Pakistan has taken the advantage. The two sides may well meet again in the final, which would be even more nerve-wracking for the sub-continent. It seems unlikely, though, because the other nation in the same group is New Zealand, which also has been great at thwarting India’s hopes in the past.

Unfortunately, this is about as much cricket rivalry that will be seen in the predictable future between India and Pakistan. India is determined not to accord the status of ‘normalcy’ to sports relations with its western neighbour because of the larger political context. The idea has been to hurt Pakistan enough to make it mend its ways (which was why there were calls for boycotting even the world cup match). Unfortunately, though, this strategy did not pan out as it should have on Sunday. Pakistan has lived to fight another day, and with flying colours!