Islamabad: In a muted and subdued reaction to its cricket team’s worst-ever World Cup defeat to traditional rivals India, Pakistan media avoided a hard-hitting stance and restricted itself to rhetoric-free staid match reports.
The media’s posture may have something to do with the dim possibility of Pakistan still qualifying for the Super Sixes and extracting revenge from India in the semi-finals or final.
And it is this remote possibility alone which seems to have spared its team and the military-dominated cricket establishment of an impending crisis.
Extremely guarded in their analysis of the high-voltage match, the media in general praised the heroics of Sachin Tendulkar while criticising the wayward Pakistani attack.
Spirits here ran high when Pakistan finally shook of their miserable batting form and made 273 runs with Saeed Anwar making a century. But a pall of gloom descended soon after the blitzkreig launched by Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag on the famed pace bowling of Pakistan’s trio of Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis.
Television commentators, including former top cricketers like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Intikhab Alam, prepared the ground for the impending defeat by stressing how Pakistan had an uphill task in playing against the famed Indian batting which had peaked at the right time.
The papers mostly carried the story in dour fashion.
‘Indian ace outclasses Pakistan pace’, read the headline of The News, praising Tendulkar’s great knock.
Another story was headlined ‘Pakistan team disappoints millions of fans’.
The daily carried a half page picture of Sourav Ganguly and Waqar Younis shaking hands and exchanging ties before the match.
‘India outclasses Pakistan’ read the headline in The Dawn with photographs of Tendulkar and Saeed Anwar.
“Tendulkar’s marvellous 98 overshadowed Saeed Anwar’s magnificent century to maintain India’s dominance over Pakistan in the World Cup,” The Dawn said.
“It was a bitter pill to swallow. But it is a comprehensive win by India against Pakistan,” said an emotionally charged Gati Aslam, anchoring a talk show with Miandad and another former Pakistan cricketer Haroon Rashid, soon after the match.
Miandad, while strongly critical of the Pakistani cricketers’ inability to challenge the aggression of the Indian batsmen, praised Tendulkar for his great innings as well as the clinical fashion with which the Indians went about replying to Pakistan’s 273 runs.
“While India won today, I see the match as a win for cricket. The ultimate winner was good cricket,” Miandad said. “The Indians’ approach was text book. This is how it should be done. This is the way to play cricket.”