Islamabad, April 16: For a while, the Pindi Cricket Stadium ambience was surreal.... Perhaps, it couldn’t have been otherwise as none expected India to thrash Pakistan twice within a fortnight, each time by an innings.
In doing so, India won overseas for the first time since 1993-94. Victory had then come in Sri Lanka, under Mohammed Azharuddin. Pakistan hadn’t lost at home after the 2000-2001 setback at the hands of Nasser Hussain’s England.
“It’s a dream come true,” acknowledged Sourav Ganguly, now the most successful captain numbers-wise (15 Tests), not just percentage. Team India’s dream, though, became a nightmare for Pakistan.
Usually, everything associated with a Golden Jubilee is cherished. Inzamam-ul Haq and Javed Miandad, however, wouldn’t want to recall the 50th Test versus India in their worst dream. It’s another matter that the huge defeat is going to haunt them nevertheless.
Not too long ago, the Wasim Akrams would taunt that the “fear of losing” kept the Souravs away from Pakistan. Almost 15 years after the last bilateral Test series on this side of the divide, it’s the home team which got clobbered.
In fact, the Indians produced awesome cricket — in the ODIs (won 3-2) and Tests. Former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja, though, chose to describe it as “stunning”.
If Multan saw history rewritten under stand-in captain Rahul Dravid, the Samsung Cup decider added a more glittering chapter. This afternoon, as Yuvraj Singh pulled Ramesh Powar’s leg by calling him “motu” and Man of the Match Dravid exhorted teammates to “hip-hip-hooray” India, nobody remembered Pakistan’s nine-wicket victory in Lahore.
If the innings and 52 runs loss in Multan wasn’t bad enough, Pakistan surrendered by an innings and 131 runs in Rawalpindi.
One expected at least a semblance of a fight, more so as the team is coached by Miandad, who never ever gave an inch without biting off something. Really, defiance would have been par for the course.
As it turned out, the series ended not much after the rescheduled second session on Day IV. Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled beautifully — he could have swung the ball till his Chennai residence — to start with and, then, (highest wicket-taker) Anil Kumble got into the act.
The injured Asim Kamal alone challenged India and his unbeaten 60 must have embarrassed peers. Inzamam admitted as much when he said Kamal “showed” it wasn’t “difficult” to hold out. Pakistan lacked character and any post-mortem has to address that.
“Pakistan appeared demoralised by our total (600).... Having said that, people should appreciate the brilliant cricket played by India.... This team is hungry for success and won’t ease off. Right now, it’s terrific being an Indian,” is how former captain Ajit Wadekar put it emotionally.
Smiling, he added: “I used to be called a Lucky Captain.... I’m a Lucky Ex-Captain, too, isn’t it'”
The first hour was most dramatic: the bowlers took three wickets; the fielders dropped three catches. Luckily none proved costly, something which again reflects poorly on Pakistan, or else Sourav and coach John Wright may still have been plotting the last day’s strategy.
Overwhelmed, Sourav told The Telegraph: “This completes the best year or thereabouts of my captaincy… from making the World Cup final to winning in Adelaide and claiming this series. However, much remains to be achieved.”
Official duties over, the captain called home and spoke to his parents and Dona and Sana. Laughing, he said: “My daughter forgot about congratulating, but did remember to ask whether I’d bought her red and pink salwar-kameez suits.” At this age, her priorities have to be different from dad’s.
Meanwhile, the record-scripting Indians — awarded a Rs 50 lakh bonus by the board — leave for home aboard a special Indian Airlines flight tomorrow evening. The departure is scheduled for 5.30 pm (IST). Man of the Series Virender Sehwag, due to wed in a couple of days, is the one most eager to quickly touch down in New Delhi.