The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pathan, the toast of new era
Guest Column
Mohinder Amarnath

A Pakistan tour has always been a difficult proposition for Indian cricketers, but itís these tours that have always produced world class players for the Indian team. Like Kapil Dev in the late Seventies, and like Sachin Tendulkar in the late Eighties. And now we have got Irfan Pathan for the future.

Pathan reminds me very much of Wasim Akram. This young lad is learning quickly, and Iím sure he going to serve India in the near future with distinction. He produced a spell in this crucial final one-dayer which showcased his talent on a placid wicket where world class fast bowlers in the past have struggled. Pathan has composure, confidence, talent, and on top of that guts and determination to perform under any condition anywhere in the world.

In thought India needed more than 300 to beat Pakistan, what with an inexperienced attack and on that flat Gaddafi wicket. It was always going to be a daunting task for Sourav Gangly, but Pathan changed the script altogether.

Playing Pakistan in a crucial tie not only requires talent, emotion, guts, discipline and will to perform, but also a burning desire inside to outplay the opponent. That comes with tremendous mental strength. I found it all.

I was surprised at Inzamam-ul Haqís decision to field first. This possibly happened because of home pressure, and a lack of faith in his bowlers to perform in wanting situations. Although Inzamam has a strong bowling attack, the flat nature of the Gaddafi wicket suited the Indian batsmen better.

This time, though, the number of extras given away by Pakistani bowlers were low compared to the other matches, and this is surely because they have worked hard to avoid the wides and no-balls.

The Pakistani pacers were trying to bowl too quick. On such flat strips we have seen Shoaib Akhtar bowling well in the first three-four overs, then fading somewhat.

Sachin Tendulkar seemed determined and focussed to play a long innings. He probably wanted to prove wrong those who allege that he rarely delivers when the chips are down. But the obvious change in his footwork made him vulnerable to a delivery pitching outside off, moving away.

Right through the series I have seen similar dismissals. I personally feel if he has to be successful in the Tests, he has to work on this delivery and its attendant footwork. He is a great player, and I am sure he will solve this problem.

V.V.S. Laxman has played a match-winning innings at the right time, despite failing earlier. Right from the first ball he was gaining in confidence. He mesmerised the fast bowlers with his cool temperament and amazing timing and elegance. He is one batsman who has always performed under pressure, and he showed it again.

Lakshmipathy Balaji is a much-improved cricketer, as a bowler and now even as a batsmen. His late knock with Pathan made all the difference. Itís too premature to see an allrounder in this youngster, though.

I must say that, I see similarities, combination-wise, with our 1983 World Cup-winning side. This team has been playing well for the last few years, and one-day runs hover in the region of 300-plus. The core of this unit has remained the same, and that imparts solidity. Add to that Souravís aggressive leading from the front, and his able deputy Rahul DravidÖ Thatís a winning combination.

This one-day series has made the coming Test series more interesting. I hope and wish the Indians beat Pakistan in the Tests as well.

Mohinder Amarnath, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning XI and Man of the Match in the semi-final and the final of that edition, writes exclusively for The Telegraph

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