The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pressure, not castles, in the air

Lahore, April 4: It’s not exactly a state secret, but this afternoon, Inzamam-ul Haq accepted that the pressure to win the second Test was “immense” and that the odds favoured India, already 1-0 up in the three-match series.

Koshish to khoob rahegi, lekin haalat mushkil hain (We’ll try our best, but...),” the Pakistan captain said candidly. In any case, he will be without first-choice wicketkeeper Moin Khan, ruled out owing to a groin injury. Then, there have been reports about Shoaib Akhtar offering to opt out after the Multan show.

Worse, coach Javed Miandad continues to be peeved that just about everybody is holding him accountable for Pakistan being in an unprecedented corner in a home series versus India. Trailing is, well, calamitous.

Clearly, Inzamam has been left with too much to do. The Indians, though, aren’t taking anything for granted. Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid cautioned “Pakistan could hit back hard”.

To facilitate that, a greenish wicket has been prepared at the Gaddafi. However, it’s a Catch-22 situation: what if the surface is exploited to the hilt by the Irfan Pathans' It’s not insignificant that the youngster was the pick among the quicks (on both sides) in Multan.

At the best of times, captains in Pakistan are under pressure from many quarters — about the only exception was Imran Khan in his later years. It gets unbearable after a defeat at the hands of India. So, if Inzamam has shrunk somewhat in the past few days, it’s not without reason.

For the record, though, Inzamam is presenting a bold front. “I’m not thinking of losing the captaincy.... Today, my thoughts are towards winning here and in Rawalpindi,” he insisted.

Incidentally, Inzamam believes “one good session” from his highly-rated quicks can bring Pakistan right back in the series. Equally, Dravid is of the opinion that fruitful “back-to-back sessions” are going to help consolidate India’s hold. “Basically, we need to have a good first day,” he added.

Dravid made the point about “not building castles in the air”. He elaborated: “Both teams will start this Test even stevens.... Right now, Multan is history and I’m not looking at what may happen after five days.... It’s going to be day-by-day and we must be consistent.... That done, the results will follow....”

A fortnight ago, Lahore saw unprecedented frenzy in the build-up to the fourth and fifth ODIs. This time, the response has been abysmal, forcing the Pakistan Cricket Board to halve ticket rates.

Even then, a decent turnout isn’t expected. Perhaps, it has much to do with Pakistan’s poor show. Also, it would have been different had the Tests been played first — this proposal was, by the way, shot down by India.

Footnote: The Indians haven’t been impressed by foreign office spokesperson Masood Khan’s remark that the Multan defeat “wasn’t engineered” and that it had nothing to do with the Confidence Building Measures with Delhi. “Fact is we played consistently well to win by an innings. That’s it,” Dravid said.

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