| Sachin Tendulkar talks to Inzamam-ul Haq’s son as the Pakistan captain looks on at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. (AFP)
Lahore, March 20: When Sourav Ganguly’s men step on to the Gaddafi green for the make-or-break match tomorrow, they will not be short on support.
The Ambanis, J.J. Irani, Jinnah’s grandson Nusli Wadia, Gayatri Devi of the Jaipur royal family and Bollywood stars will lead the thousands of screaming Indian fans in the stands — and the nail-biting millions back home — in cheering the team.
Music will also be blaring. Daler Mehndi, the king of bhangra pop who is performing in Karachi today to raise funds for Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, is expected to lend his lung power in Lahore.
It is now up to Sourav’s XI to make the day for India. Having surrendered the lead in Peshawar yesterday, they have to ensure the goodwill series stays alive in Lahore.
Team India hasn’t failed on this count in recent times and Sourav was drawing comfort from the past. “It has been a trend that we play our best cricket when our backs are to the wall. I can only hope that we do it again.”
Rival captain Inzamam-ul Haq couldn’t help but rub it in: “They will have to live with it that it’s a do-or-die situation. The slightest of errors can prove very costly.”
“We’ll try our best. We can’t take India lightly and have to maintain our form,” he added.
A full-strength Indian team lost the high-scoring warm-up match at the Gaddafi against Pakistan A by six wickets on March 11.
In its last short tour, in 1997-98, Ijaz Ahmed had blown away India with a whirlwind 139 off just 84 balls.
Sourav blamed the lack of aggro among pacers and the spinners’ ineffectiveness for the last loss but felt losing the toss made the biggest difference. “Still, we managed to claw back with a few early wickets. Abdul Razzaq then took it away from us.”
India’s performance here has raised comparisons with the showing in Australia. Inzamam agreed with Sourav that they had “lost close games”, saying “it’s not that India are not playing to potential. Both teams have played intense cricket and the difference has been made only in the last five-six overs during which the scales have tilted in one team’s favour”.
If the toss proved decisive, the Indian bowling failed to reap the benefits from the pitch. The absence of Ajit Agarkar and the two spinners, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, has “proved costly”. Zaheer Khan, too, has struggled with his rhythm.
“The bowling has been hampered by injuries. Kumble and Harbhajan have been an integral part of our success. I’m, though, not trying to cite this as an excuse,” Sourav said.
Though Javed Miandad today flayed doubts being raised over Shoaib Akhtar’s action, saying “it will lead to bad blood flowing between the two teams”, Inzamam didn’t agree. “The series is being played in a very friendly atmosphere. There’s hardly any aggression shown when you compare it with the series Down Under.”
Come tomorrow, the circumstances might just be different.