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Fazal sees a close series
- ‘Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali remain the best from India’

Lahore: Fazal Mahmood, a former Pakistan captain and arguably the first ‘pin-up boy’ of the region, isn’t going to lay a wager on the forthcoming Indo-Pak ODIs and Tests. “Looks like it will be very, very close,” he remarked, adding that the quality of cricket should “definitely” be high.

“I don’t think any team is easily going to concede an inch... The present lot is combative and, so, the matches will see a close verdict,” Fazal, an outstanding quick of his era, told The Telegraph on Thursday afternoon.

While he is “delighted” the Indians are going to feature in a full tour after almost 15 years, there’s “dismay” over Karachi getting to host an ODI only. “Personally, this business of playing here and not playing there doesn’t do credit to sportsmen... I hope something similar won’t crop up when Pakistan tour India next.”

Fazal, who has been invited to boost the probables’ morale in the ongoing conditioning camp here, explained he wouldn’t say much beyond asking the players to stick to the basics. “The more faithful you are (to the basics), better the chances of success.”

Will Shoaib Akhtar be under much more pressure'

“Actually, I don’t really understand this pressure bit... I suppose, though, it’s going to depend on how he copes with the responsibility... It’s difficult for me, or anybody else, to comment. What I can point out is that he’s a matchwinner, something he proved as recently as in Wellington when he bowled New Zealand out for peanuts,” Fazal replied.

[Shoaib, who returned match figures of 11 for 78, had six for 30 in the Black Caps’ second innings. His sterling effort paved the way for a seven-wicket win.]

Talking of young Irfan Pathan, whom he saw during the U-19 Asia Cup last November, Fazal said: “Very promising... Has a positive approach, but needs to guard against injuries. I’m sure he will go a long way once he completes one year of big-time cricket without a fitness-related lay-off.”

Declining to compare the current bunch of Indian cricketers with the earlier generations, Fazal insisted he hadn’t seen better batsmen than “Lala Amarnath and Mushtaq Ali.” He added: “Everybody may not agree, but I’ve got reasons for picking the two as the finest to have represented India...”

Incidentally, asked whether protege Waqar Younis ought to quit, Fazal responded in somewhat guarded manner — “Let’s leave the decision to him... However, if he wishes to continue, he must keep performing (in domestic cricket) and reminding the selectors of his worth...”

In the venerable Fazal’s book, reputation alone doesn’t count for much.

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