Pakistan v India, 1st Test, Multan, 5th day April 1, 2004

An hour to remember

Half-an-hour after the match, the two captains represented the two ends of the mood spectrum



The celebrations begin as Pakistan lose their last wicket © AFP

Ten balls into the morning's play, Rahul Dravid left his position at slip to go across and have a quiet chat with Irfan Pathan. It was imperative that Yousuf Youhana be denied a single, and Dravid probably had a quiet word with Pathan about bowling a bouncer or two. The first one drifted harmlessly down the leg side, but increased the pressure on Youhana to get a run off the last ball.

The next delivery was aimed close enough to Youhana for him to have a go. As the ball shot into the sky off the leading edge, most of the 15 men in the middle stood still. Dravid, who had stationed himself at short midwicket after his words of advice, made the call, and took the catch with little fuss. Even as Youhana's head sank, 11 Indians started yelling and whooping spontaneously, before getting together for a little celebratory jig in the middle.

Half-an-hour later, the two captains represented the two ends of the mood spectrum. Inzamam-ul-Haq appeared too low for zero, hardly surprising given that he had earned the dubious distinction of being the first captain to lose a Test at home to India. He accepted the critical questions with a fatalistic air, and only got a little riled when it was suggested that Javed Miandad might not be up to the task of coaching his embattled side.

Dravid, by contrast, was as assured and confident as ever, demeanour befitting a man now rated by most as the world's best batsman. He firmly dissuaded any innuendo about that declaration, and maintained that the tour would only be considered a success if India took the next logical step and won the series.

By the time Dravid had finished his obligatory appearances for the media, one of his star players was already heading out of Multan. Anil Kumble had flown to Lahore along with Sourav Ganguly, en route to Bangalore where his wife is expecting their first child. He was expected to be back in Lahore on April 3, two days before the potentially decisive second Test begins.

Out in the middle, on a pitch that looked like it could last five more days, Pakistan had organised a net session. Whether it was a genuine attempt to iron out their numerous deficiencies or merely an endeavour to deflect criticism for lack of effort, we can't say. But Imran Khan, his face set in harsh lines, was watching, proffering advice to the likes of Shabbir Ahmed in a stentorian voice. He lifted his arm once or twice, just to show Shabbir how he had occasionally bowled round-arm.

Just to the side, Shoaib Akhtar stood watching impassively, arms crossed across his massive chest. Pakistan's impact player ended the game with no wickets, and five runs, and has much to think about ahead of the Lahore game.

Saqlain Mushtaq was conspicuous by his absence, after Inzamam had stopped just short of announcing at the press conference that Danish Kaneria would play in the second Test. Shoaib Malik had a bowl, and Abdul Razzaq enticed an edge or two, which was far more than he managed in the game itself.

Miandad stood in the umpire's position, watching and doling out words of advice and encouragement. Imran departed, pursued by a phalanx of microphones and cameras, even as Umar Gul - cruelly nicknamed the Peshawar Rickshaw by some fans disgruntled by the lack of options - pondered some of the words of wisdom.

The Indian balcony was a far happier place. Players occasionally popped down for a chat with the media, and when Sachin Tendulkar took up a position halfway down the stairs, the media surrounded him like piranhas circling flesh. Sporting a couple of days' stubble on his face, Tendulkar answered questions with his quiet understated air, before disappearing back into the cocoon of the dressing-room.

Back in the middle, Inzamam continued to cut and pull whatever Malik and Kaneria bowled at him. Defeat on home turf had clearly hurt this proud man, and it was all the more sad because some of his players - reputations inflated by the occasional matchwinning performance - clearly didn't share his sense of commitment. They have four days to redeem themselves, and deny India a first overseas series victory since the English summer of 1986.