SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


A win-win series
It was a dream script for the Friendship Series, as India toured Pakistan after 14 years. The electrifying matches will remain unforgettable landmarks in the cricketing history of the two countries. Never has a team been weighed down by so many political, diplomatic, emotional and cricketing expectations. Enemies turned friends as Pakistan embraced the Men in Blue and their fans with open arms.

  • True Blue form

  • Not in great form

  • Green greats

  • Not so great

Sourav Ganguly: Got it!

Sourav Ganguly

Devastating Sami
Gopal Sharma
H
E may not be as awe-inspiring as burly Shoaib Akhtar charging in menacingly to hurl a "thunderbolt" at a batsman. He is also not as athletic and enthusiastic as Brett Lee of Australia but when it comes to hurling the ball fast or changing the course of the match, he has proved no less effective.

IN THE NEWS
Cairns in elite club
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EW Zealandís Chris Cairns on Monday became the sixth member of the exclusive club of all-rounders who have taken 200 wickets and scored more than 3,000 runs in Test matches.

 
  • Dravid, Sehwag heroes at Karachi

  • Pillay's omission

 
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A win-win series

It was a dream script for the Friendship Series, as India toured Pakistan after 14 years. The electrifying matches will remain unforgettable landmarks in the cricketing history of the two countries. Never has a team been weighed down by so many political, diplomatic, emotional and cricketing expectations. Enemies turned friends as Pakistan embraced the Men in Blue and their fans with open arms.

Every wicket taken, every run scored as well as every catch missed would be magnified and scrutinised. The youngsters put in a great effort and came of age in these two weeks. They now know about pressure and how to handle it. The crowds were great and, in the end, cricket won. So did sporting ties between the people of Pakistan and India, says Ajay Banerjee


True Blue form

Rahul Dravid: A consistent match- winner, he has scored in crunch situations. Critics and fans alike have come to know the value of the man, called "The Wall". He has emerged out of the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar. India won the first match at Karachi, Dravid was there with 99; and in the fourth one-dayer at Lahore, he ensured victory along with Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif.

Yuvraj Singh: His eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami will be part of Indian cricket foklore. His flicked six off Shoaib at Peshawar in his knock of 65 reminded fans of the great West Indian left-hander Clive Lloyd. In Lahore too, Yuvraj kept up his battle with Sami.

Mohammed Kaif: He is all over the place in Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf congratulated him on the incredible catch at Karachi which turned the game in Indiaís favour. In the fourth one-dayer at Lahore, Kaif did an encore of the NatWest final at the Lords. Stops at least 30 runs with his fielding. Contribution in batting is a bonus.

Irfan Pathan: His idol, Wasim Akram, must be proud of him. Deceived the dependable Yousaf Yohanna twice in two games with classy deliveries. A fast learner . Like Akram, does not have express pace, but the movement of the ball makes him tough to handle.

Not in great form

VVS Laxman: Despite his century in the decider everybody said he lacked the touch he had in Australia.

Zaheer Khan: The strike bowler looked out of sorts. His line was not right, probably short of match practice. Has cut down on speed, earlier he used to bowl at 90 mph while now he is between 81 and 84 mph.

Sachin Tendulkar: The great man struggled. Except in Rawalpindi where he hit a masterly 141, the Pakistani paceman got him early. The century too went in vain as India lost. At best, his contribution has been average.

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid: Showed his class

Mohammed Kaif: Sterling performance
Mohammed Kaif: Sterling performance

Irfan Pathan: Lethal swing
Irfan Pathan: Lethal swing

Inzamam-ul Haq: Scored runs at will
Inzamam-ul Haq: Scored runs at will

Shoaib Akhtar: Conceded runs but was dangerous
Shoaib Akhtar: Conceded runs but was dangerous

Yasir Hameed: Won crucial games
Yasir Hameed: Won crucial games

Green greats

Inzamam-ul Haq: The coolest customer in the hot seat of captaincy. "Inzi" can be stopped only by two "Ps". The first is Peer Saheb, his father, and the second is paranthas stuffed with potatoes or keema. The Indians could have offered paranthas but the gentle giant was in a murderous mood. Two hard-hitting centuries were demoralising for the bowlers. Has started running well between the wickets and is getting a hang of captaincy. Will be dangerous in the Test matches.

Yasir Hameed: Rahul Dravid's failure to recognise the fragile opener spurred him on. In the lift in a Rawalpindi hotel, Dravid asked if he was a practice bowler. To make matters worse, Dravid then took him to be off-spinner Saqlain Mustaq's brother. The hurt propelled Yasir to score heavily at Rawalpindi and Peshawar with Pakistan winning both the matches. Dravid and Indians will remember him for a long time now. Future of Pakistan, bats correctly and remains unruffled.

Abdul Razzaq: The all-rounder scored when it mattered and got crucial wickets. Got Ganguly in the fourth one-dayer at Lahore and in the company of Moin Khan took away the game from India in Peshawar. Orphaned young, he was brought up by relatives. The determination to do well stems from early setbacks.

Mohammed Sami: Bowled quick, took crucial wickets and also fielded well. He is the future of Pakistan. His swing can be lethal. Man to watch in the Test series as he has the stamina to bowl long spells.

Not so great

Shoaib Akhtar: Bowled too many wides and no-balls but got Sachin Tendulkar out on a few occasions. Bowled fast touching 97 mph, demanding a split-second reaction from the batsmen. Yuvraj and Kaif played him well and so did Dravid.

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Devastating Sami
Gopal Sharma

HE may not be as awe-inspiring as burly Shoaib Akhtar charging in menacingly to hurl a "thunderbolt" at a batsman. He is also not as athletic and enthusiastic as Brett Lee of Australia but when it comes to hurling the ball fast or changing the course of the match, he has proved no less effective.

If legendary fast bowler Imran Khan rates him the most promising fast bowling prospect in the world, he is sure to be among the most talented pacemen on the horizon. Though on the international scene for the past couple of years, Mohammad Sami got a permanent slot in the Pakistan team only after peerless Wasim Akram called it a day and Waqar Younis, nearing the end of an illustrious career, failed to find a berth in the squad.

Former captain Imran Khan was so convinced of Samiís abilities that he made it known that the promising fast bowler should have been there in the 2003 World Cup squad. Sami has been denied due recognition in international cricket due to the towering presence of Shoaib Akhtar, deemed the fastest bowler in the world.

When in groove, 23-year-old Sami generates pace that even the best batsmen are not comfortable with. New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming will readily testify to the fact, his team having been at the receiving end of the damage done by Sami.

In a sudden devastating burst of fast bowling, Sami sent four New Zealand batsmen back to the pavilion in one over without conceding a run in second one-day match in Lahore during the recent series. In the next over, he claimed another wicket to wrap up the innings. The five-wicket haul in the space of 11 deliveries hurtled the hapless New Zealand team to an unexpectedly quick 124-run defeat! Sami became only the second bowler in the history of the game to get four wickets in the same over. Pakistan made a clean sweep of the one-day series and Samiís contribution was significant.

Sami again ambushed New Zealand batting in the second Test in Hamilton. Kiwis were 100 runs ahead after notching up a mammoth 563 in the first innings. An inspired Sami abruptly changed the course of the match. Claiming a five-wicket haul, he reduced New Zealand to 52 for seven in the second innings to put Pakistan in sight of an unexpected victory. Rain eventually intervened as the match ended in a draw. "We donít get exposed to 150 kmph inswingers that often," conceded a candid Fleming after losing the two-Test series.

Indian batsmen would do well to guard against any complacency, while playing the likes of Sami in the three-Test series to begin in Multan from March 28.

In the historic one-day series in Pakistan, Sami took time to settle down. He along with Shoaib Akhtar, was a bundle of nerves in the first one-dayer in Karachi, where he failed to come into his own. Initial anxiety over, Sami showed what he is capable of in the second one-dayer at Rawalpindi. He did a fine job for skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, claiming three wickets, including those of in-form Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, to help Pakistan level series 1-1.

An inspired Sami was invariably quicker than Shoaib in the third match in Peshawar. Though he remained unlucky, he made Indian batsmen hurry through their strokes. Unleashing stinging bouncers, he made the batsmen look ungainly.

Sami figures prominently among the select group of tearaway quickies like Akhtar, Lee and Shane Bond, who, when in rhythm, are capable of reaching scorching speed of 155 kmph. Samiís slender frame is unlike a fast bowlerís. He has a nippy outswinger, a well-directed bouncer and a toe-crushing and reverse swinging yorker in his armoury and can be dangerous on his day. No wonder, Imran Khan rates Sami, lanky Shabbir Ahmed and Shoaib Akhtar future of Pakistan pace attack!

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IN THE NEWS
Cairns in elite club

NEW Zealandís Chris Cairns on Monday became the sixth member of the exclusive club of all-rounders who have taken 200 wickets and scored more than 3,000 runs in Test matches.

The star New Zealander crossed the run threshold on Saturday when he set the second cricket Test against South Africa alight here with a rollicking 158 off 171 balls.

He finally gained full membership of the select group of cricket greats on the final day when he had Nicky Boje caught behind as South Africa struggled to stay in the game.

He joins Sir Garfield Sobers, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Sir Richard Hadlee in the 3000-run, 200-wicket club.

Cairns (33) only returned to Test cricket in December after suffering a crippling knee injury two years ago, and said he felt lucky to be playing Test matches again.

"The best way to be measured is against your peers, the allround fraternity. You want to play well and perform against those guys and itís nice to show you can play," Cairns said after his epic batting display. ó AFP

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SPORTS MAIL

Dravid, Sehwag heroes at Karachi

THE first one-dayer between India and Pakistan was a clash of titans. The two teams fought a fierce battle on the pitch at the Karachi National Stadium.

The batting of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Kaif and Saurav Ganguly was praiseworthy. The last two catches of the day by Kaif and Zaheer Khan were brilliant. Ashish Nehraís last over clinched the match for India. Kudos to the Indian skipper and his team for a job well done.

Prof Sudhir Ghai, Ludhiana

Pillay's omission

Although India have qualified for the Athens Olympics at Madrid, they disastrously failed to impress the followers of hockey. The finesse, fluency and cohesion in the forwardline was missing. Dhanraj Pillayís omission from the team led to Indiaís lethargic performance. Gagan Ajit, Prabhjot and Deepak Thakur score goals in plenty from the moves initiated by Pillay and Baljeet Dhillon. In fact Pillay acts as a link between the forwards and the defenders. But unfortunately that link was snapped after he was dropped from the team.

Tarsem S Bumrah, Batala

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