March 24, 2000

Indians made heavy weather of an easy task

India and Pakistan have played a lot of exciting games in both versions of the game. At the same time, both these teams can be as unpredictable as the English weather. The talent in both the sides is immense yet sometimes the scorecards suggest that both these teams hardly play to their full potential. It was one of those kind of games at Sharjah with India making heavy weather of chasing a low score. Eventually the target was achieved after losing half the side, which was not convincing by any standards.

Srinath, who has had very ordinary games on his return after a break was left out, which would help him in sorting out his problems. The decision deserves to be appreciated, as it is an indication that the current form overrides either an individual?s reputation or past deeds. One can only hope that this criterion is followed consistently in order to produce the required results. Prasad replacing Srinath provided the breakthrough by dismissing the dangerous Afridi while Agarkar got rid of the talented Razzak. It has been a while since an early breakthrough was achieved and the heartening thing is that the initiative gained was not squandered away.

The young opener Imran Nazir played with pluck and in the company of Inzamam looked like putting Pakistan in sight of a big total. He hit Kumble over the top for boundaries with elan before his inexperience led to his downfall when he played across the line to Joshi. Much depended on Youhana and Inzamam but a comedy of errors resulted in Youhana being adjudged run out. Yet another coincidence where Inzamam was involved in a run out but at least on this occasion he was not at fault. Robin Singh had Inzamam snapped smartly by Karim behind the wicket who had a very good match.

The lower order did not offer many problems despite some conscious effort by Moin Khan and Wasim Akram. The low total of Pakistan can only be attributed to their under par batting and some very ordinary running between the wickets.

Ganguly and Tendulkar had to get off to a decent start to ensure that nothing untoward happened during the chase. Ganguly played a crisp innings and the departure of both the openers in quick succession provided a glimmer of hope to the Pakistanis. Dravid and Azharuddin batted resolutely as the required rate was not a demanding factor. Akhtar worked up real pace even on a slowish track but he was negotiated safely by both Azharuddin and Dravid. Just as the match was petering to a dull finish the Indians lost quick wickets to evoke some interest in the proceedings.

The target was achieved much later than expected and also by a lesser number of wickets. The trio of Akram, Akhtar and Younis tried very hard and it was due to their efforts that the match lasted as long as it did. The Indians will not grumble with the result but they have to try and work out a formula to gain and maintain overall consistency.

This victory has given the Indians the advantage of knowing what is required of them before they get into their next round of league matches. It remains to be seen if Pakistan can make the tournament wide open by winning against South Africa.