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Pakistan's winning strategy against India.

by Gaurav Sethi

 On 24th October, 2021, some team in green, playing under the guise of Pakistan, defeated India for the first time in a World Cup match.

The trick was, this team unlearnt everything they knew about World Cup encounters with India. Or at least it seemed so.

Somewhere, someone, not for the first time said, we will treat this as just another match.

Then someone from the team said, but you always say that, or someone always says that. It doesn’t work like that.

Once we are on the field, it always feels like a World Cup match. 

Then that voice said: We are in Dubai on a Sunday.

So, it’s not the same as Sharjah on a Friday, pat came the reply.

It isn’t, but you know how close Dubai is from Sharjah, how close Sunday is to Friday?

Pretty close, no?

Pretty close, yes. It’s less than 30 kms away, it takes less than 30 minutes to get there.

That close, Matt?

Yeah, mate, that close.  And Friday was less than two days back. What I’m basically trying to say is that, you guys have to transport yourself to Sharjah on a Friday. Got it?

Mathew Hayden, batting coach, man of many passions, was doing his best IPL commentary routine of platitudes with the Pakistani team. If it meant saying strange stuff, so be it. Logic wasn’t about to work with this bunch. He needed to apply some of his meditative principles. 

But Pakistan captain Babar Azam was far from convinced.

Pardon my Urdu, Matt, but I’m not convinced.

Hayden was all cracked up – Mate, there’s nothing to pardon, not right now, it’s just that if we lose to India again, they will continue to make those horrendous Mauka Mauka ads. And we as a nation of proud Pathans cannot allow that to happen. 

So without a further ado, Hayden packed the team in the team bus, and off they went to Sharjah. 

Once there at the Sharjah Stadium, the team couldn’t believe it. Quite a few of them were already believing it was Sharjah on a Friday. For the others, Hayden instructed them to change the day on their phone. There was an initial reluctance, “The match is today, today it’s 24th October and you want us to make it to 22nd – what kind of fools do you take us for?”.

Hayden with his trademark smirk, set off in his patronizing tone, “Exactly that, mate, exactly that…sometime you have to become a fool…to be in love…to be in love with victory…y’kno what I’m saying here, mate. It’s like putting the meat in the fire, and it’s never quite the same – it’s cooked, it’s edible…we need to cook ourselves…Sharjah on a Friday is our grill, and once we’re grilled, we grill those Indians…it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, we do it, 8 days a week…”

At this Shoaib Malik guffawed, “Matt, easy with the Beatles’ analogies, they don’t know who they are…”

Hayden was pleased that Malik knew. With dates and time machine work accomplished, the Pakistan team stomped back into their team bus. They looked like a changed bunch. With a new found belief, that they could do what never had been done. 

But there was a problem. The bus had a flat tyre. A few players thought it was the handiwork of the Indians who didn’t want them to turn up for the all-important-tie, “It will be like all our World Cup teams who did not turn up for the match against India…we too will not turn up, only we will not actually turn up, we will not turn up”

This is when bowling coach Vernon Philander offered his assistance, “Let me swing by…” and with that he was gone. His words were pitched up, moving to the right extent. And within no time, Philander had them all dismissed from Sharjah, back to Dubai, with a new bus, hugging the curves of the road, just as Vernon’s venomous new ball deliveries had, once upon a time. 

The players sang a Punjabi English remix of ‘He’s a jolly good fellow’, something that Hayden had taught them as he impressed them with his BBQ skills.  

Back at the Dubai stadium, the players were a rejuvenated bunch. 

Hayden had one last class for them though, “I want you to start visualizing what you will do after you win this all-important tie against India, this may be getting ahead of ourselves, but sometimes visualisation is the only way to do it, start thinking NOW”

Babar Azam, “I want to shake hands with Kohli after the win. I want to pat him on his…”

Too much information, Babar…but good, you are already there, and shaking hands with the opponent is a sign of your greatness, you are already traversing the great outer space hallowed glory of one gent going by the name of Kane Williamson”

None of them seemed interested in this unnecessary Hayden detail, but were far keener on giving their own two paisas on visualisation. 

Mohammad Rizwan opened with, “I want a hug from Kohli. I want to bat through the innings and hug Kohli first”

Hayden shrugged, “One things for sure, you guys are not Australian”

At this, Mohammad Hafeez asked, “Don’t tell me, you want us to imagine that we are Australians now”

And that is exactly what happened. 11 Pakistanis who believed they were Australians took the field on a Friday in Sharjah. 

 Hayden had also made the boys fall in love with the Coldplay song, Yellow.

Once on the field, the Pakistanis sledged the Indian batting with Sharjah! Sharjah! Remember Sharjah? This is Sharjah! Also doing the rounds was Thank God it’s Friday! Friday! Friday! And oh look, Chetan Sharma! They didn’t stop there. They even started sledging them like Aussies – Remember Ponting from Wanderers, 2003? 

Whether it was these sledges, or those two deliveries from Shaheen Shah Afridi, that broke the back of the Indian batting, we will never know for sure.

But both Pak openers visualised well. And they had their moment with Kohli. Sometimes, all you need to do is believe.

Befittingly, Hayden made the boys sing, “I’m a believer” after their triumph. The singing skills were severely tested. 

First published here

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