| Abdul Razzaq walks back to the pavilion after a job well done in Jaipur on Tuesday. (AFP)
Jaipur: Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene’s worst fears came true under the Sawai Man Singh Stadium floodlights when the scandal-hit Pakistan team actually found a “different gear” to raise its game and pull off a victory which brought more than two points in the Champions Trophy.
Few may have given Pakistan much of a chance, but after Tuesday’s sterling show, few are going to question the team’s mental toughness. New Zealand and South Africa have much to worry, as one expects stand-in captain Younis Khan and his men to build on the confidence gained here.
“Jeetna zaroori tha, nahin to log aur baat karte,” acknowledged Younis, who risked hurting his back by lifting coach Bob Woolmer in an act which said so much. Fresh from a thanksgiving namaaz, he added: “We’re a Musalmaan team and the boys are strong... We were under pressure and, while I slept well last night, some of the boys couldn’t...”
They certainly will, Tuesday night. With Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif back home, Younis and Woolmer only had 12 to choose from. Not that it mattered.
According to Younis, who himself was at the centre of a captaincy drama in the lead-up to the team’s departure, he’d been asking his players to “chill out” and “forget the pressures” and they responded to his call. “I want them to play more freely, but this was our first match... My approach is to be positive and the quality of our cricket has to be good.”
Younis also made the politically correct statement: “Even if we win the tournament, (Inzamam-ul Haq) Inzy is going to be the captain... We’re missing him...” Disappointing for those sniffing for conspiracies, but great for the dressing room spirit. Pakistan’s four-wicket win (255 for six in 48.1 overs, chasing 254) is bound to lift the gloom which took a really dark shade not many hours before the first ball — thanks to Shoaib and Asif’s misdeeds — and the country’s President, Pervez Musharraf, must be particularly pleased.
After all, favourite cricketer Abdul Razzaq emerged the Man-of-the-Match. He crippled Sri Lanka in the closing stages of their innings (after Jayawardene had won the toss) and, then, made capital of a let-off by T.M. Dilshan when on five. Eventually, Razzaq remained unbeaten on a sizzling 38 off 24 balls (2x4, 2x6).
Musharraf will also be delighted by the support Pakistan enjoyed. A group of Shiv Sainiks tried to mar the occasion, by demonstrating before the ODI got underway, but the thousands who turned up at the Stadium backed Younis and his men, not the Sri Lankans.
Incidentally, talking to The Telegraph, Razzaq (vice-captain for just a little over a day) said: “It’s one of our great wins, but I wouldn’t like to dedicate this award to anybody... Right now, I’m looking forward to my family coming over...”
The Sri Lankans, who topped the qualifiers, looked crushed.
“We had our chances, but didn’t take them... Overall, our game wasn’t up to standard... We didn’t play our A game... We fell 20-30 runs short... Now, we’ve got to put this defeat behind us... It’s important not to ‘stay’ in this game for too long,” remarked Jayawardene.
Surprisingly, he didn’t think dew was much of a factor when, after the initial rejoicing, Woolmer’s first move had been to rub his palms on the turf and assess nature’s contribution to Pakistan’s victory.
Barring the catch put down by Dilshan, the Sri Lankans paid for failing to truly build on the start provided by veteran Sanath Jayasuriya (48 from 35 balls). That five got into the 30s, but didn’t author a big score is something that’s going to worry Jayawardene and coach Tom Moody.
Pakistan were very well served by opener Imran Farhat, vice-captain Mohammed Yousuf and Shoaib Malik besides, of course, Razzaq.
Footnote: Younis, who arrived hoping for a Pakistan versus India final, emphasised that if the face-off does take place, the world will see the tournament’s “best match.” Both have started with full points, which is excellent for momentum and more.