After Ireland stunned England at the MCG, its players walked towards two sets of Irish fans and celebrated with them. Just two sets of fans – it made for some wonderment. If Indian players had gone to celebrate with their fans after that magical win over Pakistan, they would have spent the entire night (and a couple more) at the ground itself.
There is no rivalry, no contest that matches India-Pakistan. England and Ireland share a border as well, and they have had political as well as armed bust-ups. But this contest doesn’t fuel passions enough for fans to fly down halfway around the planet for a World Cup game. There were barely 10,000 people at the vast MCG on Wednesday afternoon as Ireland recorded another famous triumph.
Cynics will argue that in cricketing terms, England and Ireland are not even rivals. True, how about Australia versus England then? These are the oldest rivals in world cricket and they clash in an all-important game, again at the MCG, on Friday night. The maximum attendance expected for that game is 65,000-70,000, maybe 75,000 at a stretch. Still quite short of the 90,000-plus mark achieved by the boisterous India-Pakistan crowd on Sunday night.
Again, there is no rivalry, no contest that matches India-Pakistan. And it holds true for the aftermath of the result as well. Beating your arch-rivals is a tremendous high, and momentum gainer. Look what it did for Pakistan in the last T20 World Cup, as they rode its wave to the semi-finals and were even considered favourites for the big prize along the way.
In that light, it is important to maintain focus. Bowling coach Paras Mhambrey highlighted that the team management isn’t keen on resting anyone against the Netherlands. “When you have the momentum going in a tournament, you need individuals to be in form, as well, and for some, haven’t gotten an opportunity to bat, so every game becomes important, and we wouldn’t be looking at resting anybody,” he said, in the pre-match conference.