IN THE NEWS
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
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!
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
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
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