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Handling pressure

With Virat Kohli emphasising on the need to handle pressure situations in the upcoming World Cup, we take a look at how India has performed in such situations in the past

At a press conference ahead of the departure for the World Cup in England, India captain Virat Kohli said that performing under pressure holds the key for the men in blue in this world cup. With a round robin format this time around, India will have to play all the teams in the tournament- their first three matches being against South Africa, Pakistan and England. So, they will immediately be in the deep end of the pool, and need to handle a lot of pressure.

But how good has been India in handling pressure situations in past World Cups? Patriot takes a look at the past World Cups where Indians were in pressure situations in matches, and how they fared in those situations.

Vs Zimbabwe (1983)

India began their campaign with a win against the champions West Indies, thus surprising everyone, considering the fact that the team were considered minnows. They however lost the next two matches comprehensively against Australia and West Indies. The match against Zimbabwe was a do-or-die situation. If they lost they would be out of the World Cup. Batting first India were off to a disastrous start, losing five wickets for just 17 runs. The team were under tremendous pressure – not only were they staring at an embarrassment from a much weaker team, but they would also bow out of the World Cup. It was then the captain to the rescue. In what Sunil Gavaskar calls the greatest innings he has ever seen, Kapil Dev scored a sensational 175 runs as he partnered with the tail-enders to make India reach 266. They ultimately won the match by 33 runs, and this turned the tide for the entire team, as they went on a winning streak, ultimately clinching the World Cup trophy.

Vs Australia (1987)

India was coming into the 1987 tournament as favourites, having won the previous World Cup, and then going on to won the famous 1985 World Series. On top of that, the World Cup was being played on Indian soil. So, it was Advantage India all the way. However, there was huge pressure on this side: the pressure of being defending champions and also playing at home. A pressure India were taking on their shoulders for the very first time.

In the inaugural match against Australia in Chennai, the visitors scored 270/6, in reply to which India were cruising at 207/2, with half centuries from openers Krish Srikanth and Navjot Sidhu. However, what followed was that the middle order crumbled like a pack of cards, losing their last eight wickets for 62 runs. India faltered under pressure losing the match by just one run from a very comfortable position.

Vs Sri Lanka (1996)

This was the second World Cup being held in the subcontinent, and India had reached the semi-finals, largely due to the heroics of Sachin Tendulkar, who scored a 50 in all but two matches. An inexperienced Sri Lankan side, an in-form Sachin Tendulkar, India were all but assured of a final berth. But one question that loomed was what would happen if Tendulkar got out at a crucial juncture. India had never faced that kind of pressure in the tournament. And that is exactly what happened. Chasing 252 for victory, India were poised for victory at 98/1, with Tendulkar scoring a half century. But India collapsed to 120/8 within no time after Tendulkar was dismissed for 69. India did not know what to do when Sachin was dismissed at such a crucial juncture. The pressure of losing him got the team in panic mode. The match was however called off as the Eden Garden crowd rioted, and the win was handed to Sri Lanka.

Vs England (2003)

India had a disastrous start to the 2003 South Africa World Cup, when they barely won against minnows Netherlands, and was handed a comprehensive defeat by Australia thereafter. Effigies of players were burnt back home and there was huge criticism in the media for the players. Though Sourav Ganguly’s men won the next two matches against Zimbabwe and Namibia, they needed to register a win against a strong nation to assert that they were not finished in the tournament. In the group stage match vs England, India put on a total of 250 riding on superb half centuries from Tendulkar and Dravid, and a fiery 42 from Yuvraj. In reply England were bowled out in response for a paltry 168. Ashish Nehra with figures of 6/23 stole the show. India not only got a victory but won by a handsome margin thus shutting up all their critics and go on a historic journey to the finals.

Vs Pakistan (2011)

When we think of the 2011 World Cup, we tend to remember the finals and how Gambhir and Dhoni pulled India out from a tense pressure situation. But the match which India was under the most pressure was the semi-finals against Pakistan. Firstly, it was a World Cup semi-final. Secondly it was against arch rivals Pakistan. Thirdly, the whole country was looking forward to this match as even the Prime Ministers of the two neighbouring nations came to see the match in the Mohali stands. This is a situation where India could have easily crumbled down under immense pressure, but they kept their cool and held their nerves, scoring 260/6 in the first innings courtesy a steady 85 from Tendulkar, followed by a calm bowling performance wherein they bowled out Pakistan for 231.  n