For a long time, the elevator pitch on all four South Asian teams ran like this: capable of brilliance, but only if the stars align. Inconsistency, foolish inconsistency — it’s different from being inherently bad, because it implies prodigious talent, but only if it wants to assert itself.
But why? Why does India always do badly in their first Test in series? Why can’t the Pakistanis capitalize on the backs of their brilliant bowlers and score runs? One major factor, I think, is the professionalism of the teams. Take one example: in the first innings, Umar Gul had trouble with his run up. Most modern bowlers spend hours perfecting every part of their routine, measuring their action deliveries to the nanosecond. What did Gul do? He simply picked up his marker and haphazardly tossed it around.
And, you know, it worked. I don’t want to fully endorse the modern, video-driven, science-backed, peer-studied approach to sports. There is a certain charm for eschewing such methods, and instead relying simply on instinct and fate to win matches. You see it in Virender Sehwag (and Romesh Powar), and in Mendis and Malinga. You see it in the occasional brilliance of Indian fielding.
The downside, of course, is you don’t win all the time. The results are not uniform; the methods and tactics not perfectly executed. But, again, it depends on what you’re looking for in your cricket: a constant validation of your team (and country), or a reaffirmation that time and chance happen to us all.