The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Match in pocket, team wins hearts
A jubilant fan in Ambala. (PTI)

Multan, April 1: Sourav Ganguly set out to create history, yet destiny willed that Rahul Dravid be remembered as the first Indian captain to plot a Test win in Pakistan. It took 21 attempts and almost half a century, but the wait made this morning’s emotionally-driven innings and 52-run victory that much sweeter.

Standing in for the injured Sourav, Dravid doesn’t believe in “momentum” and “psychological advantage,” but it’s going to be difficult for the hosts to come back in this three-Test series. The last Pakistani wicket, centurion Yousuf Youhana’s, fell in exactly two overs on the fifth day.

The Revival Tour is, indeed, becoming pretty traumatic for Inzamam-ul Haq. First came the loss in the ODIs and, then, he’ll be taking to the second Test (Lahore, from April 5) in an unfamiliar position.

“We just didn’t play well and must improve in many areas,” the captain acknowledged, appearing to have lost weight in the past few days.

Usually, a defeat at India’s hands is calamitous. The jury is out on the reaction this time.

Understandably, there was a furious dash to collect the four stumps on offer as soon as Dravid caught Youhana (off a miscued pull). The stand-in captain himself grabbed one, but presented it to Man of the Match Virender Sehwag — India’s No. 1 triple centurion — who got left behind in that scramble.

Few mementos will carry more value.

Speaking to The Telegraph, a trifle overwhelmed Dravid said he dedicated the win to “Indian cricket and all those who are so passionate about it”.

He added: “More than anybody else, it’s for them.”

Given the laws of the land, bubbly couldn’t be sprayed in the dressing room, but there was much shouting and cheering. That continued till somebody began playing CDs on computer analyst Ramakrishna’s laptop, with “Tere bina, Tere bina” the first to boom.

Later, in a gesture bound to influence more hearts (and certainly gladden Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee), Team India visited the SOS Children’s Village at short notice.

The kids were thrilled and the office-bearers delighted. “The Indians have honoured us,” said Mahnaz Fareed, the institution’s general secretary.

The Pakistan team was also invited, but couldn’t make the trip collectively — some players did visit the Village last evening — as an upset coach Javed Miandad ordered nets straight after the presentation ceremony.

Kaafi kaam karna hai,” he insisted, chewing his favourite gutka.

The team hotel (Holiday Inn) too wasn’t found wanting in making a gesture: The staff lined up like a battalion and applauded the Dravids. Quite a few autograph books surfaced as well, but that’s understandable in our region.

Team India did lose Sourav before the Test, but beginning with the toss, nothing went wrong: An excellent 160-run opening stand between Sehwag and Akash Chopra — who lends much value, the record-erasing 336-run partnership for the third wicket between Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble’s eight-wicket haul and Irfan Pathan’s passionate effort in both innings.

And, of course, Yuvraj Singh’s out-of-this-world run-out of Inzamam on the fourth afternoon.

Despite playing at home, though on a wicket which blunted the attack’s potency, Pakistan got crushed under the weight of India’s 675 for five declared. Sachin wasn’t happy at being left unbeaten on 194, but Dravid’s decision stands vindicated.

Incidentally, while Sourav and Kumble left for the airport (en route home) from the stadium itself, the wives of four players —Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Ajit Agarkar and Murali Kartik — are landing in Lahore tomorrow. Kumble returns on Saturday, by when wife Chetna would have given birth to their first child.

Sourav is going to rejoin once the specialists give the all-clear to his back. “I can’t afford to miss all three Tests. I’ve got to be part of the history this fantastic team is making,” he declared. If all goes well, he should play the final Test, in Rawalpindi from April 13.

“Be it for what happened on the field or what’s expected on the home front, I’m feeling great,” Kumble said.

Today, that sentiment finds an echo in over a billion Indians.

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