Sunday, March 7, 2004

It’s cricket, not war
Driven by passion
by Abhijit Chatterjee

The upcoming India-Pakistan series has stirred tremendous interest. The Tribune team of Abhijit Chatterjee, Ajay Banerjee, Varinder Walia, Shiv Kumar, M.S. Unnikrishnan and Raman Mohan take a look at the expectations and flurry of activity that the tour has unleashed

THERE are great expectations from Saurav Ganguly and his men in blue. The Indian cricket team embarks this week on what is being described on both sides of the border as a historic tour of Pakistan, the most hyped tour team since the creation of the country in 1947. And for the first time in his career, the Indian captain will not only have to lead a band of cricketers who, barring Sachin Tendulkar, have never toured Pakistan before, but also act, and talk, like a suave diplomat. This is one job which Ganguly might find tough!

Mandarins in South Block are hoping, though nobody is saying it so in so many words that this series will help usher in an era of peace the likes of which these two countries have not seen. The political leadership of both countries — who have gone to war four times, in 1948, 1965, 1971 and then again in 1999, and have confronted each other "eyeball to eyeball" on so many occasions — are now hoping that this "cricket diplomacy" will help them break the ice. This "cricket diplomacy" is being compared by some political watchers to the "ping-pong diplomacy" — which helped to bring about a thaw in the relationship between the USA and China — and would usher in an era of peace which even the Simla Agreement, the Lahore Declaration and the Agra Summit failed to do.

But even the clearance of this forthcoming tour was not without its high drama. If the tour has finally got the green signal after so many "it’s on" and "it’s off"" statements from both sides of the border, the credit for this goes to only one man, the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In any case Vajpayee has gone on record to say that this was his last attempt to have lasting peace with Pakistan and for this he was willing to go any distance. Therefore, the clearance of the cricket tour came as no surprise to political pundits.

Prior to the clearance of the tour, the Indian political leadership was giving out different signals, with a section of the government even saying, at least in whispers, that the situation was not yet conducive for the Indian team to tour Pakistan with the extremist elements in that country holding out an open threat even against President Pervez Musharraf. "Who can ensure the safety of the Indian team," they argued. From across the border came the message, and it came repeatedly, that the Indian cricketers would be given the security reserved for a head of state (and remember President Musharraf himself escaped two attempts on his life) but it was so confusing that the average cricket follower did not know till Vajpayee made it official that the Indian team would finally play in Pakistan.

Gen Zia-ul-Haq with Rajiv Gandhi before the cricket match in Jaipur in 1987
Gen Zia-ul-Haq with Rajiv Gandhi before the cricket match in Jaipur in 1987.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on its part, was not exactly averse to sending the team to Pakistan since without sending a team to that country there was no hope for a return visit from Pakistan. (And an Indian-Pakistan series sends cashboxes jingling like no other cricket series of the world.) In its hurry to send the cashboxes jingling, the BCCI did not even have spare a thought for the players who have been playing non-stop cricket since the middle of last year when they took on New Zealand in a home series. But then the physical comforts of the players must be a low priority when it comes to "cricket diplomacy". But to be fair to the players, they have responded brilliantly. Led by their skipper, nearly every member of the team has gone on record to say that they were keenly looking forward to the trip to Pakistan.

If India was the "final frontier" for Australian captain Steve Waugh and his team (and remember the green caps could not get past that frontier) then for India and Indian captain Saurav Ganguly, Pakistan is undoubtedly the "final frontier". Make no mistake. Beating Pakistan in Pakistan (in any form of the game) is a near impossible task for most teams, specially in the days when cricket was still a gentleman’s game and umpires were supposed to be "neutral".

Of course there is no denying the fact that over the years Pakistan has become a major cricketing force, specially around the time they won the World Cup under the leadership of Imran Khan. But then the fact remains, as most visiting captains have gone on record to say so, that at home Pakistan have, more often that not, depended on "helpful" supervision of the game to make the going tough for the opposition. But this time with umpires from the International Cricket Council (ICC) supervising the Test matches and one ICC umpire doing duty in the One-dayers, India cannot complain against "biased umpiring" or "bad umpiring". India will win or lose in Pakistan on cricketing skills alone and no extraneous circumstances will have any role on the fields.

Like India, cricket is a passion for people in Pakistan. The two times the cricket World Cup has been held in the subcontinent, in 1987 and then again in 1996, the Pakistani authorities were not only willing to join hands with India both in bidding for the tournaments but also in hosting the matches — never mind even if the two countries did not get along well diplomatically. And on both occasions, the matches organised in Pakistan went off without any glitches even when the situation along the border which separates the two countries was not exactly calm. Therefore, there is very remote chances of the forthcoming tour being disturbed by extraneous circumstances. In any case, one "mad man’, as former star Navjot Sidhu put it, should not be allowed to disturb what should be very competitive cricket between two well-balanced teams. Navjot was referring to the Karachi incident during the last time India toured Pakistan in 1989 when Krish Srikkanth’s shirt was torn by a fan who managed to enter the playing arena.

But make no mistake. If India are to do well in this tour of Pakistan then they must psyche themselves to "go to war", as Mohinder Amarnath, a veteran of two tours to Pakistan, put it. "Every Indian player is keen to play in Pakistan. But playing Pakistan in Pakistan is an altogether different experience. The Pakistanis are tough on the field and are never willing to give any quarters. They are tough, both physically and mentally, and the Indians will have to match them if they hope to win the series." And for the record, India are yet to win a single Test match in Pakistan.

But Mohinder was quick to add that off the field the Pakistanis were gracious hosts and went out of the way to make things comfortable for the visitors. This year too, he hoped, things would not be different. "But expect no quarters while playing even if this is a friendship series," he warned.

One aspect which the new-generation Indian players might find disturbing while touring Pakistan is the absence of the Tricolour-waving crowd they see at nearly every cricket venue around the world. With the Indian diaspora spread around the world it is but natural for them to cheer the team from the "homeland", be it a bilateral series or the World Cup or be it London, Melbourne or be it a venue in the Caribbean. But one never knows. At Chennai in 1999 when Pakistan, during their last tour of the country, beat India in the first Test of the series, the spectators at the Chidambaram Stadium rose as one man to cheer the winners. And even during the match, Pakistan got their due share of cheering, specially when they performed well. One waits to see a similar reaction at Lahore, or elsewhere in Pakistan.

In the series played in India in 1997 the then President of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq, flew down to Jaipur to watch his team play in a Test match. It was this visit which helped Zia to break the ice with the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Will something as dramatic like that happen this time too? Only time can say. Stranger things have happened in cricket! But even stranger things have happened in diplomacy.


Powered by money
by Shiv Kumar

PAKISTAN is certainly shining for Indian marketers who are crossing the Line of Control to peddle their wares from the cricket grounds of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Multan and Rawalpindi.

Hero Honda was the first to cross the Wagah border, with the Munjals pumping in $ 1.49 million for the privilege of co-sponsoring the event. While the Punjab-based two-wheeler major greets native Pakistanis from in-stadia displays, lesser companies are making do with spots along the boundary line in all the grounds where the subcontinent’s traditional rivals are scheduled to meet.

Hero Honda, itself is keen on playing up its Pakistan connection. Its press release on the occasion points out that founder Brijmohan Lall Munjal’s bond with Pakistan predates Partition. He was born in Lyallpur, Pakistan, and came to India after Partition.

Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shahryar Khan has been quoted as saying, "We have deals of around Rs 1.2 billion with some $7 million coming from the Indian companies ... the sum is more than what we expected,".

According to reports, World Sport Nimbus, an Indian sports promotion company, expects to handle 60 per cent of in-stadia advertising at all Pakistani venues for $ 12.87 million.

Cricinfo, a website promoted by the Wisden Cricket Magazine, is selling more than one lakh tickets on the Internet. All sports buffs need to do is click on .

Multinational companies interested in the subcontinental market are pumping huge funds into the cross-border encounter. South Korean consumer goods major, Samsung won the title sponsorship of the series by shelling out $4 million. Dubai-based TEN Sports (Taj Entertainment Network), which is muscling out Rupert Murdoch’s Star Sports, Sony and ESPN in Indian cable networks paid $13.3 million for the television rights and $150,000 for radio.

According to sources in Mumbai’s advertising agencies, TEN Sports is charging a whopping Rs 4.12 lakh for every 10-second slot during the One-dayers. Test match advertising come cheaper at Rs 85,000 for every 10-second slot. In comparison, Sony Television charged just Rs 2.37 lakh for 10 seconds during the last World Cup.

The electronic goods industry is making the most of the event. South Korea’s LG was the first off the block with a ‘Captain of India’ featuring Sourav Ganguly. The company is expected to spend over Rs 13 crore on sponsorships, advertising and promotion during the India-Pakistan series.

According to Anil Arora, Head - Marketing, LG Electronics India, the company has already bagged sponsorship rights for the series on TEN Sports for Rs 6.5 crore. In all, the company may spend Rs 40 crore, according to Arora. LG’s campaign conceptualised by Percept D’Mark would feature other prominent cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and K. Srikkanth.

Market sources say the Indo-Pak cricket series has given a fillip to the advertising industry in what is usually regarded as a slack season.

White goods manufacturers are expected to collectively fork out as much as Rs 250 crore by the time the series winds up in April.

Ad spend will be highest on colour televisions whose sales peak during cricket events. Other goods like refrigerators and air-conditioners that sell in a big way during summer are expected to ride piggyback on the series. Many have tied up with finance companies to offer loans at zero per cent interest to attract buyers, and may offer different schemes to push their products.


Amritsar is all agog
by Varinder Walia

A view of the Wagah Joint Checkpost from the Indian side. Indian cricket fans will pass through it for the matches in Pakistan
A view of the Wagah Joint Checkpost from the Indian side. Indian cricket fans will pass through it for the matches in Pakistan. 

THE district administration offices in this frontline city are flooded with queries from sports lovers here who are eager to see their favourite cricketers pitched against arch-rival Pakistan. Visas, accommodation, tickets and travel arrangements are what they want to know about. As the take-off point for the overland journey to Lahore, Amritsar is perhaps next only to Delhi in having to handle the rush of cricket tourists.

The authorities are gearing up to make the necessary arrangements for a smooth passage to Pakistan, and reports suggest that visas would be issued from Amritsar itself for the convenience of the travellers. The visa office will be opened in the district courts complex.

Other arrangements are also being worked out across the border to ease the travails of the journey. The Pakistani government has scheduled special buses that can be boarded after crossing the Radcliffe Line. To make the visitors feel welcomed on arrival, Pakistan’s Sports Department is organising facilities to provide snacks and brunch at the Wagah joint checkpost. A former Pakistani cricketer, Sayad Ahmad, is said to have assured J P Shoor, honorary secretary, Amritsar Games Association (AGA), that proper arrangements would be made for the visitors in Lahore and other places.

Raminder Singh, Deputy Commissioner and AGA President, said that the District Red Cross Society, Zila Parishad and other departments of the administration are taking measures to ensure that the travellers from here do not face any problem in Pakistan. Intelligence agencies at the Wagah checkpost would check the antecedents of visitors. Those who have been through the procedure say that this was done in the past too when relations between the neighbours were friendly.

The forthcoming cricket encounter has stirred nostalgia among former cricketers and sports lovers. Deepak Chopra, a veteran Ranji Trophy player, said that, as a young cricketer, he had seen great Pakistani cricketers playing in Amritsar’s Gandhi Ground in 1979. These included Imran Khan, Sarfraj Nawaj, Asif Iqbal, Zahir Khan, Javed Miandad, Muddasar Nazar and others. Shoor said that India-Pakistan cricket matches were a regular feature in Amritsar and Lahore since1954, and it was routine to grant a seven-day visa for these on both sides. However, these matches, which were stopped after the 1965 war, were revived only after a long gap when visa restrictions were relaxed.

Besides cricket, there have been other cross-border meeting grounds for sportsmen from here. Asian badminton champion and Arjuna awardee, Davinder Ahuja, visited Pakistan twice for international tournaments. He was a member of the Indian team,which won the 1975 Thomas Cup by defeating Pakistan at Lahore. He said besides him there were five other players in the Indian squad, including Prakash Padukone, Suresh Goyal (Captain), Raman Ghosh, Asif Partia and Partho Ganguly. A year later, he went to Karachi to participate in the tri-nation tournament.

Wrestling coach Sohan Singh recalls the 1981 Second Asian Wrestling Championship held at Lahore when crowds thronged to see the matches between India and Pakistan. It was a thrilling experience for him and his men who bagged two gold medals, four silver and three bronze. The last wrestling team to come here from Pakistan was during the Khalsa tercentenary celebrations.


Settling scores
by Ajay Banerjee

REMEMBER Pakistani batsman Zaheer Abbas with his trademark white handkerchief wrapped around his neck during the days of black and white television and when Doordarshan used to telecast matches directly. He never seemed to get out and went on to score a truckload of runs, at least on Pakistani soil.

Why only Zaheer, even Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar did the same to Indian bowlers. The three had dented the pride of the fabled Indian spin quartet comprising Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkatraghavan. The same people floundered while playing in India. One of the most fruitful batting partnerships of the Pakistan team have been between Miandad and Mudassar Nazar, at Hyderabad (Sind) in 1983. Both scored double centuries. India lost the match by a huge margin of an innings and 110 runs, one of worst defeats Pakistan handed to India.

On six occasions, Zaheer Abbas scored more than 150 runs against India which in test cricket is considered a very good score. Mudassar Nazar has scored 150 or more four times against India. Zaheer has two double centuries, while Mudassar has one and another score of 199. In the 1982-83 series as many as 12 hundreds were scored against the Indians. Mudassar and Zaheer Abbas scored four and three centuries, respectively.

On their part, Indian batsmen scored five centuries, out of which Mohinder Amarnath scored three. The Pakistanis have scored 43 centuries against India while our team has managed 32. Sunil Gavaskar and Polly Umrigar have five a piece. Mohinder Amarnath scored four and Ravi Shastri and Azharuddin have scored centuries three times. Amarnath has scored all his centuries in Pakistan. This time round, India has the batting back-up to score heavily.

The Pakistani batsman have been punishing Indian bowlers not only in the Test matches but also in One-dayers. The records for the highest score in One-day cricket stands against the name of Saeed Anwar scored against India at Chennai in 1997. Ijaz Ahmed took away the game from India in the finals of the Independence Cup with a swashbuckling 139 at Lahore. However, the Pakistanis have never beaten India in a World Cup game. Indians beat them in Australia ( 1992), at Bangalore ( 1996) when Ajay Jadeja blazed away, in England ( 1999) and also in South Africa (2003). Saeed Anwar scored a hundred but Sachin had to settle for 97. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh wrapped up the innings. This was also the last match between the two teams


Preparing the pitch
by M.S. Unnikrishnan

NEVER before in the history of Indian sports has a tour kicked up so much political dust. This is only to be accepted as the Indian cricket tour of Pakistan comes after a gap of 14 years.

The Indian team were expected to make a return visit, after Pakistan, captained by Wasim Akram, toured India in 1996. But that did not happen as the political equation between the two neighbours got soured and all contacts were snapped.

Therefore, now it comes as no surprise that fans are queuing up for visas at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi to watch cricket in Pakistan. Islamabad has not yet specified the number of visas it would issue to Indian fans. Board of Control for Cricket in India president Jagmohan Dalmiya has no clue either. In any case, too few visas, too many applicants is the scenario.

A Pakistan High Commission spokesman clarified that anyone who buys a ticket for any of the matches would be issued a visa. "We have not put any limit on the number of visas", he asserted. Unofficial sources put the number of visas to be issued around 8000. But the demand for visas is many times over that. The official said tickets could be bought online. Fourtyfour per cent of all the high value tickets, between Rs 650 and Rs 1200 for the One-dayers and Rs 1,250 and Rs 1,700 for the Tests, will be up for online sale. Cricket fans from other countries are also expected to flock to Pakistan to witness the historic resumption of cricketing ties between India and Pakistan.

For the Indians, going to Pakistan will not be much of a problem if they have tickets, as the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Attari can carry around 1000 people. The train mostly runs half empty and the cricket series will be a godsend for the Railways. A railway source said it would be no problem to cater to cricket fans who want to take the train to Pakistan.

The Delhi Transport Corporation, which operates the Delhi-Lahore bus service, is also prepared to bear the additional burden if the Centre gives the go-ahead.

More than 100 mediapersons too are learnt to have applied for accreditation. The rush is rather unprecedented, but not unexpected, as the One-day series precede the Test series.

"The enthusiasm may wane after the One-day series", says an official, adding that the "outcome of the One-dayers may determine the response to the Test series."

Prospective visitors are not too pleased with the rigid visa regulation. Confirmed tickets, travel plans, accommodation arrangements, proof of residence, identification like a ration card, etc, have to be produced for a visa.

"We cannot be lenient on the security aspect, as cricket between India and Pakistan generates a lot of passion. We cannot afford to leave anything to chance," asserts a senior Board official.

To be fair to Pakistan, it has rarely voiced security concerns while on sports tours in India. The Pak veterans’ cricket team, which toured the country a couple of months ago, were ‘at home’ in Punjab, Delhi and Agra, though the pitch at Agra had been "dug up" by vandals a week before the scheduled match.

With the Indian cricket team’s tour of Pakistan, both countries hope to cement the rough patches in their relationship.


The tough get going
by Ajay Banerjee

Sachin TendulkarIT is an optimistic Indian team that would be setting out for Pakistan on March 10. The 38-day trip is going to be demanding and pressure is bound to build up. However, pressure like this can lead to individuals giving their best. This time, the Indian team is stronger than any of our previous teams. This team is even more promising than the one in 1982 when the batting of Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath redefined the words "dependable" and "consistent." Yet, India lost the six-Test series 3-0. Now as both countries are preparing for the trip, cricket coach D.P. Azad says " India has the upper hand ."

Beneath the wedding-like preparations and bonhomie, lies the old bitterness in Indo – Pakistan relations and a history of poor performance on the cricket field in the past. All these will only add to uneasy tension of playing international cricket. Not to miss the security threat. Recently, Sachin Tendulkar was quoted by International news agency Reuters saying " Pakistan tour will be mentally tough".

In 52 years of cricketing relations between the two countries, India has never won any of the 20 Test matches it has played in Pakistan. Actually, India has lost badly on a couple of occasions. (which ones) In the 15 one-dayers played in Pakistan, only three have been won by India.

Bad umpiring is not accounted for in the record books. Even as India could never win against Pakistan in Pakistan, the neighbours have won four Test matches in India, and the first one as early as 1952, at Lucknow.

On previous trips to Pakistan, the Indian team has faced some unfair umpiring. This time, at least for the Test matches, neutral umpires will stand in while television replays will be used for runouts and stumpings. Oldtimers have often complained that the Pakistani’s even changed balls (which is not allowed till a certain number of overs are bowled or the ball loses shape) and tampered the pitches. All this while, it appeared as if the umpires looked the other way.

Undoubtedly, Saurav Ganguly and his boys will not face this kind of umpiring. Former physio therapist of the Indian cricket team, Ravinder Chaddha says "This Indian side has the armoury to reverse the trend and put one back on the Pakistanis. We are going to win the Test series." The optimism is not misplaced. The present Indian batting line-up is easily the most feared in the World. Brett Lee and company, who were hammered in their own backyard, can vouch, for it.

Now the opening pair of Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag has done well in Australia. The middle order has Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar,V.V.S. Laxman and Saurav Ganguly and no team can lose with this kind of batting line-up. The team has done very well in Australia.

Bowling is one department that has never been a strong point as far as the Indian team is concerned and this tour will be no different. If young Irfan Pathan is doing well, Zaheer Khan is recovering from an injury which has kept him out of the game for more than two months. Spinner Harbhajan Singh has been ruled out following the surgery of his finger. This leaves the injury-prone medium pacer Ashish Nehra, old warhorse Anil Kumble and the inconsistent Ajit Agarkar to strengthen the bowling department. The bowling lineup is weak, admits Chaddha but the Pakistanis are no better. According to Azad, Irfan Pathan and L. Balaji can handle the pressure as they have against Australia.

Another aspect in India’s favour is the inexperienced Pakistan side. They do not have lethal fast bowlers such as Imran Khan, Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis. The only major threat will be Shoiab Akhtar, who can reverse swing the old ball. Will the Pakistanis give a fast-paced and pitch with bounce enough just to suit Shoiab? Probabaly no, as it can affect their own batting line-up when India bowls. On the batting front, the Pakistanis do not have the mercurial Saeed Anwar or the run machines of the past—Javed Maindad and Mudassar Nazar. Their batting is weak, says Azad, and is no patch on ours.


Bets, bookies and bhaav
by Ajay Banerjee

IT is the dark underside of cricket which cannot be brushed away. Crores of rupees are placed on bets on cricket games. Already bookies and punters are rubbing their hands at the prospect of the historic clash between Indian and Pakistan.

A Ludhiana-based bookie said: " Leading industrialists put up to 50 pettis ( Rs 50 lakh) on the outcome of a match." The lowest denominator for betting is Rs 1,000. Bookies say for the One-Day series the odds will be almost even. The odds for the test matches will be fixed only after the outcome of the One-Day series. This will be based on the form of Indian batsmen, form of Pakistani bowlers, state of pitches and of course at this time of the year rain will not play spoilsport.

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiBets are placed on sessions. For a One-Day match this is: First 15 overs, then 15 to 30 overs and finally 30 to 50 overs. For a test match : It is on 20-over sessions. Then bets also placed on the outcome of the match. Say who will win or loose. For Test matches the draw is also factored in. The odds for the draw change on daily basis as rain, condition of the pitch, good batting or bowling alter the outcome.

The complex world of betting works like this. The bookies float a rate at the start of the match. Say, for example, a bookie will say India will score 80 runs in the first 15 overs. The rate varies according to the bowlers of the opposition and also pitch conditions. For example, a bookie will not float a rate of 80 runs in first 15 overs when Indian plays a weak team like Bangladesh.

Now comes the fixation of the rate. A typical offer will be of 20 paise per rupee. This, in simple words, means if India scores 80 runs the punter gets Rs 200 for every thousand rupees he bets. In case India does not score 80, the punter loses Rs 1,000. The method of giving rates remains the same for outcome of matches and other variations of betting. The rate can vary and be anything like 5 paise to 70 paise. In the India-Australia series it was 65 paise.

In the middle of an innings the rates change. This occurs when, say, India are off to a flying start like 60 in the first ten overs. Then the bookie will give a fresh rate like 90 runs in 15 overs based on assumptions that 30 runs can be scored in five overs. The old bets will stand and punters can bet on the new rate also. Bookies say rates also change if a Sachin or a Sehwag gets out as they are known to be big hitters of the balls.

Betting is not so easy as it seems. On several instances in the past, punters have lost millions and so have the bookies. A leading example is: India versus Lanka match in the 2003 World Cup. The rate at the start of the match as 82 runs in 15 overs. Sachin and Sehwag raced away to 82 in 12 overs. The next three overs were maidens and not single run was scored. Those who bet saying India will not score 82 runs lost in any case. The biggest loss was of those who bet on fresh rates which were changed in the middle of the innings. The new rates were 90 runs in 15 overs. With Sachin and Sehwag at the crease, punters thought getting 8 runs in three overs was a cakewalk. It proved otherwise.

Bookies quote another classic example. In the epic final of the Natwest series 2002 in England. India was chasing 325. Having lost five early wickets, nobody gave India any chance. Bookies gave a rate of 5 paise for an Indian win. A son of a Haryana politician reportedly placed a Rs 10 crore bet saying India would lose. Had India lost he would have made Rs 50 lakh. Mohd Kaif and Yuvraj Singh scripted one of the biggest turnarounds in the history of cricket. The politico’s son reportedly paid up the money after arguments.


by Raman Mohan

THE cricket betting industry is looking forward to reviving its fortunes in the forthcoming Indo-Pak series. This industry has been passing through a difficult period recently because of a number of factors. The crackdown on punters in recent years and the failure of the Indian team to win the big matches are the main factors responsible for the slide. However, the industry hopes that unlike the recent India-Australia series, when the turnover touched an all-time low, the Indo-Pak series will take the turnover to an all-time high as the two teams are resuming cricketing ties between each other after a long gap.

Hansi, the betting capital of Haryana, about 25 km from Hisar, is readying to do good business during this series. A leading bookie of Hansi said, "We expect to do a record business since Indo-Pak matches in either country take betting to dizzying heights. The format of booking has been changed to make it more interesting and attract smaller investors. This time we will even accept bets on how many players will wear hats and how many will wear caps. Bets will also be accepted on which end the fielding side will opt to bowl first. Besides, we have bets open on how many catches will be taken with the fielder wearing sunglasses and whether a wicket would break during play. Though the amount involved in such bets will not be much, but we hope to rope in newcomers who will later gradually shift to serious and heavier betting."

Another bookie said control rooms were being readied for the series. "We had tried mobile control during the last Indo- Australia series using laptops and Reliance mobiles which provided Internet connectivity. It proved successful and the police could not locate the vehicles from which we operated. So, we will use this technology only to be on the safer side", he said.

The rates or bhaav, as they are known in the industry, are yet to open. Hansi bookies say the main Mumbai bookies like like Sobhan Mehta, Laxmichand Thana, Hitesh Thana, Virendra Borivli, Kothari, Lalaji Indore and Chhote Miyan are setting up a control room in Airoli. The Delhi based big time bookies like Pritam Dilli, Ruby Dilli and Mukesh Dilli have established contacts with Pakistan based bookies. "The bhaav should have declared by now normally, yet the uncertainties over the series delayed the whole process. Besides, public interest is yet to build up. The real official opening bhaavs will be announced only after the teams are announced. Unless the teams are announced, bhaavs cannot be settled," a bookie explained.

He said any comparison of bhaav between this Indo-Pak series and the earlier ones would be tricky. The last series like this was played a longtime ago and betting has changed completely since then. Besides, the slump in the industry has made both bookies and betters cautious. So no one yet hazards a guess how it would compare to earlier Indo-Pak clashes.

Nevertheless, friendly bets are being made among cricket fans themselves but without involving money. The betting frenzy is expected to peak only on the day of the first match.


18 captains in 11 years

Imran KhanTHE Pakistan cricket team, in the past 11 years, since Imran Khan retired, has changed captains a 18 times. In 11 years,Wasim Akram has been captain four times. Saeed Anwar had been captain three times while Rashid Latif, Aamir Sohail, Ramiz Raja, and Moin Khan have been at the helm of affairs twice each. Waqar Younis and Salim Malik have been once each. Since September 2003, the captain is Inzamam –Ul-Haq. He will also continue as captain for the series with India. As far as India is concerned, there have been just three captains in this period Mohd Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly. At one point some shifting took place between Azhar and Sachin. — A.B.