In the end, Virat Kohli fronted up with a smile on his face. He had lost a match that India entered as favourites. India had a superior record over Pakistan at ICC events, including a win when the sides last met in the final of a global event, the World T20 in 2007. But it all came tumbling down in the final as Pakistan’s bowlers unraveled the Indian batting unit like a pod of green peas.
India were that bad. Batting, bowling, fielding and intensity – they fell short in each of these facets of their game they had worked hard to improve in every subsequent match this tournament. Kohli was honest in defeat, gave credit to Pakistan for being the better team, but pointed that India should be proud to finish as the runner-up.
“We can be very proud of that as a unit, and we leave here with our heads held high because we understand the kind of expectations and pressures we face as a team,” Kohli said. “Credit to everyone for standing up and showing that resilience and reaching the finals, and today we were outplayed in all departments.
“They had to earn their win. They made us make those mistakes because of the way they were bowling and the way they applied the pressure in the field, as well. And we have no hesitations or shame to admit that we could not play our best game today.”
Kohli did not hesitate to bowl first, perhaps because of India’s comfort factor in chases. He has done so Bangladesh in the semi-finals too. When it was their turn to bat, Mohammad Amir turned the match by removing Rohit Sharma and Kohli in his first two overs. Kohli admitted failure to stitch a partnership didn’t help matters.
“Early wickets are never good, especially in a chase,” he said. “Then we kept losing wickets. One big partnership would have been the key to set it up nicely. It is always a bad feeling when you get out or the batting doesn’t work collectively. Not that we are not playing at our best, we tried our level best, but we just couldn’t make things happen today. But personally, yes, it does feel bad.”
There were a couple of bright sparks, though: Bhuvneshwar Kumar walking virtually unscathed through the ring of fire and Hardik Pandya finally living up to the potential his captain had been speaking about throughout the campaign.
Pandya was hungry to bowl throughout the Pakistan innings and was the second-most economical Indian bowler behind Bhuvneshwar. Bowling with intensity and hard lengths, Pandya bowled some tight middle overs. He showed the same attitude with the bat.
India were down and out at 72 for 6 in 17 overs. Unaffected, Pandya smashed a 32-ball half-century to give India a glimmer of hope. “When Hardik started hitting, everyone started getting the feeling that we could take the game deep,” Kohli said. “That was a pleasant moment. If we can take the game deep, then we can probably get closer to the total. But again, a mix-up or an error at that stage, so these things happen on the field, you understand that as cricketers.”
That mix-up was Pandya being run out after Ravindra Jadeja turned his back on him. Pandya bared his frustrations out in public, exchanging words with Jadeja and then grunting loudly all the way back to the dressing room. Kohli was clear Pandya did not need to be apologetic about letting his emotions get the better of him.
“He felt he was in the zone today and he could have done something really special, and that’s why the disappointment came out. You’re so committed, you’re so motivated that when things don’t happen, and without even it being a mistake, it can get frustrating. You don’t understand why it has happening.”
Earlier in the morning, Pakistan had plugged away as soon as their opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali raised a robust 128-run partnership, which could only be broken through a run out. Kohli said it was Zaman who hurt India the most by his “high risk” strokeplay.
“When guys like Zaman get going, he plays unorthodox shots, they’re really difficult to stop,” he said. “Eighty percent of his shots were high risk and they were all coming off. Sometimes you have to sit and say, the guy is good enough on the day to tackle anything. You can only do so much.
“We certainly tried to make them hit in areas that we felt it would be uncomfortable, but we just didn’t have anything going our way in that partnership. Yes, they opened it up a little bit, but they kept going positive, which was something that could have upset the lines and lengths of the bowlers.”
The one area Kohli felt they could have done better was with the extras. India conceded 25 on Sunday, which he felt was a bit too much. “That’s something that we certainly need to take care of in the future. Obviously the same bowlers are going to play, the same guys are going to be back. The more consistent you get in learning from games like this, it’s better for the team in the future. So yeah, that’s an area we certainly need to look at.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.