The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dravid, Sachin declare all-clear
- Stand-in skipper takes initiative for one-to-one

Multan, March 30: Last evening, Sachin Tendulkar appeared devastated by stand-in captain Rahul Dravid’s declaration, which left him six short of a possible fourth double century. Yet, today, he was passionate on the field and, by bamboozling Moin Khan on the last ball, made Team India’s hold on the first Test even stronger.

The change in Sachin’s body language, one understands, had everything to do with Dravid’s praiseworthy decision to have a one-to-one with him.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, he either spoke to Sachin late last night or early this morning, before they left the Holiday Inn for the stadium.

That an interaction had taken place was confirmed by Dravid himself when two members of the touring party approached him in the dressing room, intending to “organise” a quick face-to-face with Sachin before Day III got underway.

Dravid, one learns, eased the duo’s “tension” by revealing he had already spoken to Sachin and that “misgivings, if any, were cleared”. Relieved, the gentlemen must have said a thanksgiving-prayer.

Of course, Dravid wasn’t obliged to explain anything — including the timing of the declaration. That he took the initiative to “blow out growing heartburn”, as one source put it, speaks much about the non-cricket qualities he possesses. He scores highly there, too.

The touring party was stunned by Sachin’s unusually pointed comments on the declaration. Now, everybody ought to breathe easy.

“Sachin and Dravid had a nice chat. Actually, Sachin didn’t really mean to question the declaration. His remarks were influenced by his being somewhat upset,” explained another source.

Incidentally, Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq bluntly stated he wouldn’t have declared had any of his batsmen been so close to a double. “Every team has its strategy, so I wouldn’t like to talk about what the Indians did. In principle, though, I wouldn’t have called anybody in. Main do sau banane deta."

Pakistan, meanwhile, is gasping at 364 for six, replying to India’s 675 for five declared. They need another 112 to make India bat again -- a tall order given that only Abdul Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq can seriously push towards saving the follow-on.

Inzamam, however, hasn’t lost hope: “Despite the enormous pressure, we batted well and were positive. If this effort continues, we should be able to make India bat again. I’m proud of my players, who didn't get weighed down by the pressure of 675.”

The captain himself contributed a classy 77, while the gifted Yasir Hameed (batting at No.3) fell for 91 excellent runs. Inzamam, though, didn’t appear pleased with Simon Taufel’s verdict.

Among the bowlers, Irfan Pathan was the pick. However, as the Test progresses, Anil Kumble should be the most difficult to tackle. Or, even, Sachin.

FOOTNOTE: If Multan’s district coordination officer (the most important bureaucrat in these parts) is to be believed, the ongoing series is “fixed”. Specifically, this is what he had to say: “One of the reasons for a low turnout is that there’s a perception the series is fixed. Even I’ve...” Thankfully, he clarified that he was “just going by the public perception”. But, by then, he had caused enough damage.

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