Skippers swap places

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  • Published 16.04.05

New Delhi, April 16: In the lead-up to this about-to-end tour, Inzamam-ul Haq?s captaincy was under scrutiny. Sourav Ganguly, though, was sitting pretty as India?s most successful Test captain.

Yet, the journey here from Mohali has claimed Sourav and turned Inzamam into a hero. India may make it 3-3 in the ODIs ? the final face-off is tomorrow ? but the cooler than cucumber Pakistan captain will still return home a winner.

Inzamam, however, had been at his wits? end after the 195-run defeat in the second Test (at the Eden). He even told a senior Pakistani journalist that while others paid for their ?sins? in the life-after, he was having to suffer in this ?zindagi? itself.

?Maine kya paap kiya hai ki mujhe aisi team mili hai? Log khade hi nahin hote... Main akele kya karoon?? he moaned before landing in Bangalore for the final Test.

Once there, though, the arrival of his family as also that he would be playing his 100th Test changed Inzamam?s body language.

He led from the front, with an outstanding 184, and applied enough pressure to crack the mighty Indian line-up.

Pakistan won that Test and drew the series 1-1. Sure, the visitors lost the first two ODIs, but have hit back to win the next three.

Yet again, Inzamam led from the front ? this time in the Motera ODI. His unbeaten 60, which must rank among the finest by any captain anywhere, helped Pakistan knock off even 316.

Motera, of course, proved to be Sourav?s undoing: Run out. Unable to defend 315. Banned for six matches as his team was three overs short. Worse, without assessing the consequences, the selectors omitted him.

The board could have asked Sourav to rejoin the team, but didn?t. He hasn?t reacted publicly, but this lack of confidence has crushed him. Indeed, being available (as his ban is ?on appeal?), Sourav should have been here even if not in Kanpur.

?Kharab lagta hai... But it?s not for me to talk about Sourav?s inclusion/exclusion,? is how Inzamam reacted to a query from The Telegraph this afternoon.

Earlier, interacting with the media, Inzamam said the ban was ?harsh?. He added: "Mere par bhi lag sakta hai... Waqt ki baat hai.?

Asked whether Sourav's absence could work to Pakistan's advantage, Inzamam replied in the affirmative ? ?After all, he has the experience of five years. Farq par sakta hai.??

Incidentally, Inzamam has himself been banned for one Test by Chris Broad and, so, won?t feature in Barbados not many weeks from now. He got penalised for going over the top on the last day in Bangalore.

However, that disappointment is going to be neutralised by the joy of drawing the Test series and, in a worst case scenario, returning home with the ODIs too drawn.

Today, Sourav is the one saddled with all the worrying. Irrespective of stand-in captain Rahul Dravid giving the politically correct (?no comments?) answer to a question on whether he was hoping to keep the job full-time.