If the semi-final victory over Bangladesh was a 'complete game' (in Virat's words) then the final at the Oval must rate as a 'complete disaster'.
Loss by 180 runs in a 50 over game is not defeat--- it is disaster of the highest magnitude, an earthquake hitting 9 on the severity scale .
Exactly two Sundays ago, India vanquished Pakistan by 124 runs, dismissing them for very little. On Sunday, in a dramatic turnaround, the underdogs upset the favourites. Before the game Pakistan was written off by every critic and every cricketer including Godji , the SRT. Even the bookies gave them no chance. This was a game Pakistan(the lowest ranked team in the tournament) was not expected to win.
So, the dus crore ka sawaal: what went wrong for India? What caused an astonishing role reversal where Pakistan played like India, and India, well, let's just say had an off day.
But if we were to look a little below the surface of the 180-run defeat, here are some factors that could have contributed to the capitulation.
1. Tactical Mistake to Chase
Virat Kohli’s decision to bowl first, instead of putting runs on the board, to create 'scoreboard pressure', especially on bowling more fragile than bone-china, is debatable.
Batting is India's strength, the line-up did not fail the team even once, till the final. So why not take first strike and set a tough challenge for the team batting second? A chase in a high pressure final is never easy. Let alone against a team with Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali in their line-up.
Was Virat, normally aggressive and on the front foot, hit by a defensive virus to be tentative against Pakistan's new ball attack on a fresh wicket? Possibly. But then he misread the surface because the ball did nothing before lunch. It did nothing afterwards either.
2. India Lacked Intensity
Know this is hindsight and a post-mortem but Indian appeared flat, lacking energy and intent.
This could partly be a result of a professional, purposeful, fully prepared and programmed Pakistani team turning up for the final at The Oval. They played a perfect game - openers built a solid foundation, everyone put bat to ball and wickets were lost only in the quest of quick runs.
India, smug and complacent, was put on the back foot by Pakistan from ball one.
3. Bowlers Failed to Create Opportunities
The pattern of India’s bowling innings could well have been set by Jasprit Bumrah’s wicket of Fakhar Zaman in the fourth over, off a no ball. The decision was reversed and the opener went on to smash a century.
Speaking after the match, Virat also briefly touched upon the bowling unit's failure to test the opposition batting, which a captain expects on inserting a team after winning the toss.
Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman bossed the bowling and Ashwin went for 70 from ten. And though later, both Bumrah and Bhuvi were impressive in the death, the match was too far gone from India's grasp.
4. Pakistan Just Too Good
Pakistan did not put not a foot wrong and batted to a plan without losing their way. The momentum shifted decisively in their favour midway during the innings through a calculated surgical strike by Man of the Match Fakhar Zaman. Between overs 26 and 31 he suddenly shifted gears, first to hit Jadeja for 16, then to smash 17 off Ashwin. After that there was no stopping Pakistan and the last ten overs fetched them a game-changing 91 runs.
Fakhar is a wonderful striker who swings his bat without a scare or a trace of self doubt. While scoring his century he gave the impression he was batting at Lahore Gymkhana, not at The Oval in a big final. He is a left-handed Virat Kohli with positive mindset and crisp timing.
During India’s chase, Amir was absolutely brilliant to take apart the top order with a masterly spell of hostile pace bowling. He asked serious questions of everyone on a flat track and dismissed three batsmen, all playing defensive shots.
So complete was Pakistan's domination that captain Sarfraz (Man of the Match against Sri Lanka for his 61 not out) wasn't even required to bat. Instead, spinner Imad came ahead of him to hit some telling blows.
Pakistan's only blemish was Azhar Ali putting down a sitter at slip to drop Kohli.
5. It Simply Wasn't India’s Day
India was luckless, first with Fakhar Zaman's no ball dismissal, then with catches falling in no man's land ever so often. All teams in a tournament have one bad day (some like SA have several!) and Sunday was destined to be India's horror day.
Post defeat, Virat was gracious and dignified in his comments. He gave credit to Pakistan for a splendid performance and admitted their all-round superiority. We need to 'take it in the chin and move on' he said. Move on, we do.
While there will be celebrations across Pakistan, there will also be a few awkward moments in the PCB as the Pakistan Cricket Board now finds a delicate problem on their hands. Earlier in the tournament, after India had thrashed Pakistan in the group stage at Birmingham, the board had instituted an enquiry into the poor performance of the team.
Now, having won the Champions Trophy, they must find a way to silently dissolve the committee. Or, merely change the TOR to find reasons for victory!
(Amrit Mathur is a senior journalist, former GM of the BCCI and Manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He can be reached at @AmritMathur1)