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T20 World Cup: India and Afghanistan keep South Asian flags flying

Players belonging to the South Asian diaspora have till now performed well for the countries of their present abode.

Axar Patel during the India-Pakistan match on June.9. / Snapsindia

Cricket, a game of the British vintage, has become a religion for South Asians. So overpowering is its growing popularity in the subcontinent that in the ongoing T20 World Cup in Americas – West Indies and the USA are jointly hosting the 9th edition of this marquee event – 12 of the 20 teams are represented by players of the South Asian descent.

Incidentally, a record number of six South Asian nations – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal – qualified for the T20 World Cup 2024, six other teams – Canada, Oman, Uganda, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA – are also represented by players of the South Asian descent.

Otherwise, South Africa has won all its three matches played so far defeating two of Asian teams – Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Besides, it has beaten the Netherlands to stay at the top of the table with maximum thee wins from as many matches.

Looking at the analytics of the completed 21 of 55 matches of the tournament, performance of South Asian teams and players has been hawking media headlines. Playing against teams from other parts of the world, South Asians have a 3-4 record, with Afghanistan recording convincing wins against Uganda and New Zealand and India notching up a similar flattering win over Ireland, they have suffered some shocking defeats, including Pakistan losing super over the game to the USA and Nepal going down tamely to the Netherlands. In the last game played on June.10 at Nassau Cricket Stadium, Bangladesh went down fighting to South Africa by 4 runs.

South Africa 113/6 (Heinrich Klassen 46, David Miller 29, Quinton de Kock 18, Tanzim Hasan Shakib 3/18, Taskin Ahmed 2/19) beat Bangladesh 109/7 (Tawhid Hriday 37, Mahmudullah 20, Keshav Maharaj 3/27, Anrich Nortje 2/17 and K Rabada 2/19) by four runs.

In the matches played among South Asian nations, India recorded an exciting 6-run win over Pakistan in a low scoring game while Sri Lankans were surprised by Bangladesh.

Players belonging to the South Asian diaspora have till now performed well for the countries of their present abode. When the US shocked Pakistan, it was all because of some good batting by the team captain, Monank Patel. Other players of the South Asian descent who have done well include batters Pargat Singh (Canada) Shreyas Movva (Canada) and Vikramjit Singh (the Netherlands).

Former Pakistani cricket star Shahid Afridi wrote in his column that in the game between India and Pakistan, it was an easily chaseable target. No team has ever defended a lower total at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, he wrote holding that “Pakistan’s bowling was disciplined and it managed to restrict what is the best batting line-up in the world to just 119.”

He quoted Indian skipper Rohit Sharma admitting that his team did not bat well enough and the loss of early wickets, including his own and that of Virat Kohli to bring the game to life. Early removal of both of them gave Pakistan plenty of momentum.

“There has been a lot of talk about the drop-in pitch in New York and the surface was a little slow compared to the batting-friendly pitches we have become accustomed to in T20 cricket,” wrote Afridi but went on to add that the pitch should never be used as an excuse and neither captain did so they know that top-level professionals should know how to adjust to any conditions.

“I believed India’s batters were 35 to 40 runs short of where they wanted to be. In my experience, international cricket and especially the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is all about handling pressure. On the big days, you have to have nerves of steel until you make it through.

“India stayed positive and calm until the last ball and the pressure of the run chase was not handled well by Babar Azam’s side. The key difference between the two teams was India’s consistency, self-belief, discipline and attitude on the field. The Pakistan batting line-up simply isn’t clicking and what we saw was a weak display of power hitting,” Afridi added.

India has now won seven of its eight matches against Pakistan at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

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