The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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21 shy of goal set by General

Calcutta, March 16: Pakistan fell 21 short of the total Pervez Musharraf hoped would be achieved in the second ODI, at the Rawalpindi Stadium, but the country’s President can’t be disappointed with the 329 for six: That was enough to beat India in a heart-stopper and draw level in the Samsung Cup.

Musharraf, also patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), turned up in the army chief’s regalia around the 31st over and was in the chairman’s box for about 15 overs. However, as he left before the break, there was no opportunity to mingle with the teams and the photo-op of the season has to wait.

Of course, 17 years earlier, the script unfolded very differently when President Zia-ul Haq landed in Jaipur to play his cricket-card. Obviously, Musharraf’s approach towards many issues isn’t run-of-the-mill stuff. The lensmen, though, should have their fill on Wednesday when he hosts both teams over tea.

According to PCB chief executive Rameez Raja, who was invited by Musharraf to join him and chairman Shaharyar Khan, the President said he was hoping Pakistan would get to 350 — one better than India’s (match-winning) effort in the Karachi ODI.

Probably realising that may not be possible, Musharraf asked Rameez to specify a “safe total”. A former captain, he replied: “Sir, 320 at least....” After that, Musharraf wanted to know why Karachi had just been allotted one ODI.

Both Shaharyar and Rameez explained that the itinerary had much to do with India’s “concerns” over security. Musharraf countered by insisting “Karachi is always safe”. The PCB chairman and chief executive mollified the President by pointing out India’s next tour would begin with a Test in the port city.

While Musharraf doesn’t appear to have a favourite (“the President is a fan of the entire team” informed Rameez during his chat with The Telegraph), he enjoyed Abdul Razzaq’s lusty hitting. The allrounder smashed 31 off a mere 18 balls. “I think Razzaq now has at least one more admirer,” quipped Rameez.

Incidentally, Sachin Tendulkar is the only visitor Musharraf showed interest in. “Where’s he fielding'” the President queried, turning to Rameez. “Sir, he’s coming on to bowl” was the answer.

Sachin didn’t make an impression with the ball (6-0-45-0) but, later, became the first Indian to record an ODI hundred in Pakistan.

Musharraf, by the way, has decided to have a “private audience” with the victorious U-17 and U-19 teams. While the younger lot won the Asian meet in Bangalore, the U-19s lifted the World Cup in Bangladesh. He is going to host Pakistan’s visually impaired team which beat India recently, at home, as well.

“Generally, the President seemed happy with the way our cricket is going,” maintained Rameez. That’s good news for the PCB, where heads often roll quicker than pins in a bowling alley.

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