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March 31, 2004
Richard Nixon once said, "A man is not finished when he's defeated. He's finished when he quits." If you go by that logic, Pakistan's series might well have ended at Multan, where they have waved the white flag with an ease that has bad portents for the future.
No streak lasts forever, and too much shouldn't be made of the fact that India are on the verge of their first Test victory in Pakistan. Defeat is a part of sporting life, but Pakistan have been disgraced here by the manner in which they allowed themselves to be pushed around. If the 1992 World Cup saw Imran Khan's cornered tigers, Multan was introduced to Inzamam-ul-Haq's pussycats. For the fans who have suffered through this apology of a performance, it isn't an identity change to cherish.
India have this almost sewn up because they are clearly the hungrier side. That had much to do with the fact that, under John Wright, they have embraced professionalism. Pakistan remain a ramshackle outfit, rooted in the amateur era, with no qualified fitness trainer and no concept of discipline. On the other side of the world, England have dominated the West Indies for precisely the same reasons.
Too many of the Pakistani players have been treading water since they came into international cricket, repeating the same old mistakes and learning few new tricks. They did have a foreign coach of their own - Richard Pybus had almost as many chances as a cat has lives - but his credentials were as dubious as he was anonymous.
During his press conference yesterday, Inzamam almost laughed off suggestions that his team should employ a bowling coach, and someone to perk up the fielding. That sort of attitude summed up everything that's rotten at the core of this team. Considering that his bowlers have been dishing out tripe ever since India landed in Lahore three weeks ago, queries about a bowling coach are hardly laughable.
Blaming the pitch was another pathetic excuse. This bunch of Pakistani bowlers are quick through the air, but they do very little off the pitch. A grassy track or a bouncy one would aid the Indian bowlers just as much, with Irfan Pathan having been the outstanding pace bowler on view.
Pathan bowled with tremendous verve, and also remembered that on surfaces such as this, adherence to some sort of line and length is mandatory. The spell that he bowled - 8-6-3-0 - either side of lunch was magnificent, and it was frustration as much as anything else that made Imran Farhat slash at an Anil Kumble delivery to trigger the slide.
Pathan swung the ball both ways, and also used the bouncer at the body to great effect. The delivery that nailed Abdul Razzaq first thing in the morning was perhaps the best of the match, and it set the tone for another day of utter dominance. All that he lacks now is an express delivery that can sneak up on unsuspecting batsmen.
Throughout a long day, the Indians never lost the spring in their step. Kumble bowled with unflagging energy for his 24th five-wicket haul - on a surface where Saqlain Mushtaq was as dangerous as a fluffy pillow - and even Sachin Tendulkar chipped in with some legbreaks and googlies that spat off the pitch.
Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammad Sami, in Pakistan's first innings, and Yousuf Youhana, who raged against the darkness with a dazzling century, also illustrated that there was no noticeable deterioration in the pitch, if you were prepared to bide your time and seize upon scoring opportunities. Sami and Moin Khan made faces when given out, but they would have done well to remember that this isn't the 1980s, when the deplorable practice of pad-play was viewed indulgently by match officials.
Even without Zaheer Khan - conceivably out for the Lahore Test as well - India made inroads throughout the afternoon. No-one epitomised the winner's mentality better than Kumble, who had Razzaq caught at forward short leg a ball after a vociferous appeal for a bat-pad catch at silly point had been turned down.
India's only previous innings victory against Pakistan came in the inaugural Test between the two sides, at the Ferozshah Kotla in 1952. Barring a miracle of sorts, they will have another to savour tomorrow. For Pakistan, it's time to look long and hard at glaring inadequacies, rather than hide behind excuses about umpiring. As Henry Longfellow wrote, Not in the clamor of the crowded street, Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat .
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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