India gained where Pakistan lost
By Bilal Memon
Published: April 25, 2015

What would any sport be like if one couldnít recall moments of glory? Reminiscing, as unavoidable as it is, is the part of human emotion that helps one relive greatness or disables you from moving on.
Refresh memories and pinpoint a moment from the 2015 World Cup that left an impact on teams and fans. Depending on geographic location, the answer and choice would vary. But, if there was a phase during the game that captured the essence of the cricketing battle, it was, undoubtedly, Wahab Riaz running in at Shane Watson. The spell, as magical as it was, was real. It was a left-arm pace bowler running in, hurling controlled bouncer after bouncer to a man clearly struggling to put bat on ball. The war of words that followed captured the spirit with which the game was played. Itís not usual for Australian players to be at the receiving end of bouncers or sledging. As fate would have it, the stranglehold was ended by Pakistanís self-destructive habits, a dropped catch.
But, the significance of Riazís spell extends beyond that window of play. It reminded fans of what cricket could be all about and what it currently isnít. With the commercialisation ó not globalisation ó of the sport, it has evolved from being an evenly-contested battle to a heavily tilted one in favour of, yes youíre right, the batsmen. And this is where Pakistanís failure lies as well.
Twenty20 cricket was always going to improve scoring rates. Innovation and improvisation was a package deal. But, what also happened were rule changes. Additional fielding restrictions, limits on the number of bouncers, use of two new balls, Powerplays, width of bats, smaller grounds and the general lack of quality bowlers meant the game took a turn. Maybe, Indiaís success also rides on the fact that their batsmen more than overcompensate for the lack of quality on part of their bowlers. In Pakistanís case, the bowlers are unable to do the same for their batsmen. These remarks are not meant to anger Indian fans ó their first class cricket structure, financial muscle and playersí ability to handle and thrive under pressure are well-known.
In the past few years, Pakistan has not produced a batsman who could be comparable to the best in the world. Lack of cricket and exposure at home means our batsmen lack experience, even by the time they have played games for Pakistan. This is where the problem lies. While the rest of the teams have moved ahead, evolving according to the needs and wants of the game, Pakistan have taken steps in the opposite direction. Dependability on bowlers, whose effect has already been marginalised by the new age of cricket, has led to the teamís stagnant growth.
Overall, cricket is not what it used to be. The game has evolved, gained some and lost some fans. Big hits may very well be liked and attract crowds but will never be enough to sustain the level of interest years down the road. Every now and then, a Riaz will have to repose faith in the gameís overall fairness towards bat and ball. The recently-concluded World Cup featured the highest strike rates, more than one double century and countless performances that would prolong television highlights. But, was this World Cup the most memorable one?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2015.