The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav presence made a big difference

That was a dream performance by the Indians, the fulfilment of every Indian captainís secret desire since India and Pakistan have been playing Test cricket. Congratulations.

Contributions have been from all: Rahul Dravid, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Parthiv Patel, Virender SehwagÖ However, I have to add that the return of skipper Sourav Ganguly made a big difference in the Rawalpindi Test. The Multan victory was excellent, but look deep and you will notice how dependant we were on massive contributions from two: Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

In Rawalpindi we saw immense teamwork, contributions from more or less everybody in the Indian team. And that is Souravís contribution. Having noticed him in the last few years, in the World Cup, the home series, the Australia tour and in Pakistan, I have come to admire the way he plays mind games with the opposition.

That is an immense psychological edge for the Indian team, a confidence-booster, especially for the youngsters. And words of encouragement from the captain always helps.

The way Sourav has been handling the team is ideal. Bishan Singh Bedi had a somewhat similar way, encouraging togetherness among players.

That is in stark contrast with the way Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul Haq goes about his work. He is basically a laid-back kind of guy not one to express himself much on the field. His personality is such that his aggression shows only in his own batting, not while acting skipper. I did not see him spend time with his bowlers. When he should be coming around to mid-on, mid-off region to be able to run up to the bowler and offer support and encouragement, he let the bowlers be. A pat on the back helps, you see.

But, then, leadership is a quality that one is probably born with. And remember, in an India-Pakistan series the losing side stands to lose its skipper.

And the Shoaib Akhtar issue remains unclear. It is difficult to know what sort of an injury he suffered, but by the way he was batting Friday, and by the way he lifted Anil Kumble out of the ground, he looked pretty okay to me, physically.

There is a hint of intrigue here, and the fact remains that he was nowhere around when Pakistan needed him, out in the middle. He has gone out of the game earlier too. This does not have a good effect on other bowlers in the team, and India also managed to make the best of this lacuna.

You could see that in the Pakistanisí body language. As India started piling up the runs the Pakistanis seemed to be looking towards defeat, already down in their minds.

Indians won in spirit, individual plus the team, Pakistanis played well merely in patches. India played one bad match and they paid for it, but even in the one-dayers, their performance has been creditable.

Also, the difference between the bowlers of the two teams was pretty evident. Indian bowlers were able to swing the ball, while the Pakistanis, known for this art, were not. That was surprising. In a five-day match swing bowlers are as effective, if not more, than the fast bowlers. Remember Kapil Dev' He was absolutely lethal. The Indians today arenít really worried about pace. It is the movement off the seam that has more effect. Rahul Dravid, of course, has always got a measure of this. Once he has dug in, it is easy.

Dravid, I have no hesitation in saying, is the best player in the world today. I admire his will to perform. Not long ago I regarded Steve Waugh as the best. He was winning matches for the team. Dravid does this, contributing in the crucial games. He has excellent technique, can pace his game well and has proved successful in both varieties of the game. At the end of the day it is how you score that is important. Thatís the edge.

Lakshmipathy Balaji is one of those bowlers who will get wickets for you, or give away a lot of runs. He bowls up to the batsmen and was able to extract a lot of swing. He uses the away-movers to effect. He has been a good find.

A word about Parthiv Patel. It must have been a tough decision for Sourav, slotting him as an opener. Possibly Parthivís knock in the second innings was the decider. Sourav wanted a grafter rather than a stroke-player. I was a bit surprised seeing him open. Itís not easy for an wicketkeeper to open after having kept.

íKeeping is a thankless job. People normally see the mistakes. But itís part and parcel of the game. This kid is coming up very nicely. We should encourage this youngster.

The wickets did play a role. I have always seen grass on Pakistani wickets when I played. This time, though, they forgot that if they could bowl so can we.

Grass is needed to bind the wicket in this climate, but the batting technique differs. The Pakistanis prefer the ball coming onto the bat rather than see a moving ball, while Indian batsmen tend to play straighter.

And in batting Pakistan only have Inzamam. Yusuf Youhana is around, but his technique remains suspect.

The Indian team needs a well-deserved rest now, it has been a tough, long tour, and I hope no tournament is suddenly scheduled immediately.

It would be nice to see more youngsters for the smaller tourneys, especially one-dayers. A rotation policy wonít really work for the emotional Indians, but an alternative can be worked out.

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