June 16, 2001

Cricket aside; this team is a winner in mannerism

Imtiaz Sipra

LONDON. The statistical result of this ongoing triangular Series notwithstanding, on record is achievement of another kind. Barring very minor omissions, this contest is, so far, less acrimonious and certainly scandal free and controversy free if one discounts Shoaib Akhtar's theatricals. The code of conduct is an effective deterrent but what one sees as a positive factor is that all teams reflect players competitive, yet keener to play and follow the spirit of the game. It is this commitment that stands out brightly in the current contests.

The Australians certainly stand out as the one's to follow in conduct and character, and the English, though not always angelic, are no less. But the surprise is the Pakistan team, a model of behaviour, even counting the Palmer 'wide' protest at Lord's. They are no longer cocky, arrogant and short of patience as previously. If they had no appetite for being 'second best' previously, it does not feature now in their mannerism. And seems well sated due that Test series loss to England in Pakistan. They no longer think of themselves as all-conquering heroes and do not take affront to any relief denied them on the field. Humble and humane, they willingly get themselves photographed with fans and sign autographs. This has endeared them even to the local tabloids and missing are those unrelenting attacks on them in previous tours, notably 1992.

Another factor that may have influenced this 'amicable' nature from Pakistanis, could be the approach of Alec Stewart and Steve Waugh, who like Waqar Younis, emerge as captains of heart and soul, supported by other players as keen to be honest competitors. It is this commitment that has served them well this contest and augurs well for the coming matches. And the future too.

Waqar Younis, a little unsure at start of the tour, has led his charges well, leading from the front. It is no new responsibility for him, yet he so does under the shadows of living legends like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram, with expectations high. A lion he may not be, yet no less a tiger he is. And his bowling under pressure at Lord's epitomised that and reminded one and all of his last five balls at Sharjah, 1991, when hit for a six by Bishop off the first ball of the last over, bowled four dot balls before bowling Bishop last ball for a one run win for Pakistan. Wounded Lions (England) and Prowling Tigers (Australia) still await him and his team at matches ahead and he need not drop his guard.

Waqar Younis's team has given its 100% so far, sweating and straining beyond their limits and potential. They have to retain their passion to be so committed and reflect their infinite resoluteness, confidence and pluck in coming matches, more so against Australia. And even England. This because, England undeterred by back-to-back losses, plan to come back in the last match, and the Australians on the roll.

Much that Pakistan takes heart from the fact that England are out of the final spot, Pakistan must maintain consistency in matches to come. They play Australia at Chester-le-Street on 16th and then days later at Trent Bridge on the 19th in a D/N encounter. First and foremost in their minds must be the heart to make a match of these encounters and not face the humiliation England suffered at Australian hands at Old Trafford. Conceded that McGrath and others reflect penetrative consistency, they also have batsmen to countermine that. Required is the application to stay at the crease and runs will flow as desired.

Likewise, they should not take England lightly at Headingley on 17th June. As Steve Waugh puts it so correctly 'if you are losing it always creates a few little doubts'. Thus a win is a must at Headingley to take Pakistan into the final at Lord's on June 23 with an appreciably higher morale. And morale can get up if they are able to post at least one win against the Australians in the coming two matches.

It has often been stated that no man or woman was ever so much deceived as by him or herself. And, that the most deluded are the self-deluded. This the Pakistan team should keep in mind. If they retain and sustain their 'never-say-die' attitude reflected at Old Trafford and Lord's, there is no reason why they should not be worthy opponents to Australia in the final at Lord's. A day, which may reverse the result of the 1999 World Cup final.