Karachi: Stand-in captain Younis Khan and coach Bob Woolmer were quick to head for the 22-yard strip at stumps on Tuesday. They spoke little, but scrutinised in the manner of sleuths at a crime scene.
Younis and Woolmer returned to the dressing room once the customary repairs got underway, with their look suggesting they weren’t any wiser. Yet, it’s remarkable they can set the agenda despite Pakistan having been six down for 39 on the first morning.
Just how they read the National Stadium wicket will go a long way in determining (a) the target for India and (b) the time to be given. With two days and a minimum of 180 overs available, even the current lead of 518 (with five wickets intact) doesn’t seem insurmountable ' strictly theoretically, that is.
The highest winning total stands at 418 for seven (West Indies against Australia, three years ago), with 315 for nine (Pakistan versus Australia, more than a decade ago) being the maximum in Pakistan.
“Getting to 500-plus is possible... I’m not sure whether it’s probable... If one had to chase, then this is the best wicket... That it’s playing well is going to help keep the mind strong,” observed India's coach Greg Chappell.
He added: “One could look back at a lot of things, but one has to deal with the situation as it exists... The reality is we’ve again got to do all the catching up... Throughout this series, we’ve been chasing...”
Chappell accepted that “fast bowlers” do make the difference in Test cricket. “They’ve definitely got a couple of guys who are quicker than the fastest we’ve got.” He meant Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif.
The three-match series is 0-0 and Karachi is hosting the final Test.
Chappell defended his bowlers (“they couldn’t have done better”), but the unpleasant truth is that Pakistan added as many as 338 for the loss of only three wickets. In fact, they did better with each session: 97 runs in the first, 100 in the next and, then, 141 in the extended final one.
Barring Abdul Razzaq, unbeaten on 44, every other batsman helped himse lf to at least a fifty.
Comeback kid Faisal Iqbal ' who received tips from Rahul Dravid during India’s tour-opener in Lahore ' even got his maiden hundred. He will resume on 103 (252 minutes, 191 deliveries, 12x4). In many ways, he is Javed Miandad-like ' no surprise as mother Safia is the legend’s youngest sister.
Faisal, though, declared he wanted to carve his own identity. “My uncle has taught me from the beginning... Has polished my skills and has been at hand for guidance. However, I’ve always wanted to be noticed as Faisal Iqbal, not Javed Miandad’s nephew...”
Asked by The Telegraph whether that relationship had raised expectations and added pressure, the PIA captain replied: “I wouldn’t say so... In any case, I’ve set out to be Faisal Iqbal... I’ve never seen myself as the nephew of an icon... I’ve myself got to do the hard work...”
A Karachiite, Faisal hadn’t thought of a formal celebration: “Thanking Allah through my prayers, I suppose, is going to be my way of celebrating...” The youngest of four children, he dedicated his hundred (which came after being in the dumps for three years) to the “team and family.”
Of course, he wouldn’t have played had regular captain Inzamam-ul Haq been available. Well, destiny...
Footnote: Understandably, Miandad expressed joy at Faisal’s performance. “I’m very proud... He was under pressure and having been dropped had left him frustrated... All credit to him... His recall has shown that performances in domestic cricket do get rewarded...”