| Amit Bhandari
Islamabad: Not just President Pervez Musharraf; Sachin Tendulkar’s 141 at the Rawalpindi Stadium has floored the Indian skipper too. “It was the best one-day innings from Sachin that I have seen,” Sourav Ganguly told The Telegraph this evening.
“It was very difficult to bat on this (two-paced) wicket. The ball was not coming on to the bat. Additionally he (Sachin) had to tackle the mental pressures associated with an India-Pakistan clash. The circumstances under which he got the runs with India chasing a total of over 300 also makes it that much more special,” Sourav explained.
Pakistan drew level on Tuesday, but Sourav was already looking ahead. “The objective will be to stay focussed and positive. Why do you have to think that losing in Rawalpindi will mean Pakistan will enjoy the advantage' We can again surge ahead in Peshawar,” said the skipper, oozing confidence.
The Indians were back at nets this evening. It was only an optional session but the bowlers along with Mohammed Kaif, Hemang Badani and V.V.S. Laxman, besides the skipper, were present.
The session turned out to be more of a rehearsal for the bowlers with John Wright supervising the likes of Zaheer Khan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik and Ramesh Powar. It has now been confirmed that Amit Bhandari will be joining the squad as a replacement for Ashish Nehra.
Nehra, who split the webbing of his left hand while trying to stop a ball on his follow-through last night, required two stitches and will be out for two weeks. However, the thinktank wants Nehra to stay on here, with the squad.
Pathan is set to replace Nehra in the team for the third match. Defending the pathetic showing by his bowlers, skipper Sourav said: “Though batsmen did have problems in adjusting, the was nothing in the wicket for bowlers either. So you can hardly blame them (the bowlers).”
He even spoke out for Zaheer, despite the pacer giving away 72 in his seven overs. “He bowled very well in Karachi. Anyone can have a bad game any day. Sadly, it happened with Zaheer yesterday.
“Besides, one should also remember that Zaheer is coming out of a three-month injury break. He lacks a bit of match practice and will struggle with his rhythm. At nets Wednesday, he looked good and will gradually find his lost touch.”
Sourav stuck to his opinion on the toss becoming pretty unimportant. “Batsmen are able to get purchase on all tracks, on some with some degree or adjustment, though (like in Rawalpindi), because the ball wasn’t coming onto the bat,” he said. He again cited the 600-plus scores, saying: “So how does the toss matter' The trick will be in restricting the side batting first to below 300.”
On his coming in at No. 4 Tuesday, Sourav said that the team’s strategy has been worked that way. “It was decided that if a wicket falls within the first 10 overs Laxman will be promoted. That is because he can take more advantage of the field restrictions,” the Indian skipper said.
Sourav felt that the 1997 Pakistan side — the last time the Indians toured here (losing the series 1-2) — was much stronger than the current lot. “You had Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Saeed Anwar then. These guys are less experienced and nowhere when compared to them.”
It will be up to the Indians to prove their skipper right.