IN THE NEWS
Inzamam-ul-Haq’s brilliant batting, astute captaincy and down-to-earth nature have bowled over many cricket lovers in India, writes Vikramdeep Johal
WHO is more likely to survive a nuclear holocaust — the cockroach or Inzamam-ul-Haq? It’s safer to bet on the Pakistani captain, for he has weathered many a storm during his 13-year-old career to come up trumps.
Many have taken sadistic pleasure in mocking his running between the wickets, his weight, his eating and sleeping habits and what not. Critics have bayed for his blood like hounds whenever he has gone through a bad patch. Yet despite all their efforts to make him a laughing stock, Inzamam has often had the last laugh.
The big man from Multan has shown time and again that on his day he is as great a batsman as anybody. After Adam Gilchrist, he is perhaps the sweetest timer of the cricket ball today. In the Bangalore Test against India, Inzamam made it apparent that he had the makings of a great captain.
Adaptability, the key to survival, was the most remarkable quality he displayed during that amazing victory. Slammed for his lack of aggression, Inzamam shed his shy-and-somnolent image to put the Indian batsmen under immense pressure. He also surprised everyone with his quick reflexes on the field. There was even a rare emotional outburst at the umpire’s decision, somewhat reminiscent of the Toronto incident when a younger Inzy swung his bat at a spectator who called him ‘aloo’ (potato).
What is quite intriguing
is that even after being around for over a decade, Inzamam remains an
enigma. At times it is hard to figure out whether he is too naive or too
shrewd. He ambles his way to the middle as if taking a stroll in a park,
then starts smashing the bowlers. While leading the side, he is usually
as cool as a cucumber, no matter how desperate
It is this multi-layered personality which has won many hearts in India during the current tour. He is easily the most popular member of the present Pakistan team. The Indian public sees him as a ‘friendly opponent’, not as an enemy.
During the match against
Board President’s XI in Dharamsala, a group of girls carried a banner
wishing him happy birthday on
He is also delighting TV viewers by appearing as a medieval warrior in a commercial, where he easily overshadows ad veteran Sourav Ganguly. Cricketer-turned-commentator Ravi Shastri was not exaggerating when he called Inzamam a great ambassador for Pakistan cricket.
He can do wonders as a skipper if his
countrymen stand by him, come what may. Even if they don’t, his faith
in Allah and his own abilities would keep him going, for criticism is
water off a duck’s back with him.
Behind the stumps, he saves important runs and brings about the downfall of batsmen with his catches or stumpings. When in front, he comes up with a match-winning, or at least a match-saving knock. Meet the phenomenon sweeping the cricket world — the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Kamran Akmal saved Pakistan from certain defeat with a defiant hundred in the Mohali Test; Dinesh Kaarthick played a crucial knock of 93 in Kolkata and also stumped century-maker Younis Khan to trigger Pakistan’s collapse on the final day; far away in New Zealand, the unstoppable Adam Gilchrist blew away the Kiwis with two whirlwind hundreds. (While Akmal was the man of the match in Mohali, Gilchrist won the award in Christchurch and Wellington Tests).
Perhaps no wicketkeeper-batsman ever has made as big an impact on his team’s fortunes as Gilchrist. Of the 68 consecutive Tests he has played since 1999, Australia have won a staggering 52 (It could have been 53, had not rain saved New Zealand in Wellington last week).
His 4,452 Test runs, the second highest by a keeper (after Alec Stewart) and the most by a No. 7 batsman, include 15 centuries. He is number three on the Test sixes list with 80 hits, not far behind Chris Cairns (87) and Vivian Richards (84). His keeping has been superb as well, both before the pace of Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie and the spin of Shane Warne.
Akmal and Kaarthick are not in the same league as the Australian, but they have the potential to become integral members of their teams. What seems to be lacking in them is consistency, a hallmark of Gilchrist. After his heroic knock in Mohali, Akmal failed with the bat in both innings of the Kolkata Test. With his fall vanished Pakistan’s hopes of saving the match.
Kaarthick, on the other hand, conceded no less than 63 byes in the three Tests against Pakistan. The 19-year-old must realise that he can’t cement a place in the side by virtue of his batting alone. His predecessor Parthiv Patel, a decent batsman, found himself out of the team when his keeping went from bad to worse.
With Jharkhand’s MS Dhoni and the much-neglected Pankaj Dharmani of Punjab in good nick, Kaarthick must not only keep scoring at the highest level but also prove himself a safe(r) pair of hands. Even if he can frequently do a fraction of what Gilchrist does time and again for Australia, Team India stands to prosper.
THE day Sourav Ganguly's squad disappointed cricket lovers by going down without a fight to Pakistan, the women's team led by Mithali Raj stormed into the semifinals of the World Cup being played in South Africa. Playing inspired cricket, the Indian eves got the better of two-time champion England to notch their third successive win in the tournament.
Earlier, India defeated Ireland by nine wickets and hosts South Africa by four wickets. Unfortunately, rain prevented them from winning their first match against Sri Lanka after they had skittled out their rivals for just 116 runs.
The bowlers have delivered the goods match after match. Spinners Deepa Murathe (4 for 1) and Neetu David (2 for 8) wrecked South Africa. Medium pacers Amita Sharma (3 for 12) and Jhulan Goswami (2 for 15) helped to dismiss Ireland for a paltry 65.
A visit to South Africa in 2002 by
almost the entire current Indian team has contributed to India's good
show so far. During the 2002 tour, India lost the one-day series 1-2 and
won a Test match (their first victory on foreign soil).
AFTER an exciting, hard-fought Test series, it is time for one-day action. The first of the six ODIs begins in Kochi today. India came from behind to win the five-match series 3-2 when they toured Pakistan last year. After that victory, however, India have not tasted success in one-dayers against their arch-rivals, losing four times in a row — in the Asia Cup (Sri Lanka), three-nation tournament (Holland), ICC Champions Trophy (England) and the BCCI Platinum Jubilee match (Kolkata).
Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam made it five wins in a row on the LPGA Tour, collecting her eighth major title with a commanding eight-shot triumph in the Kraft Nabisco Championship last week.
It was the 59th career victory for the world number one and kept alive her dream of becoming the first golfer to achieve the grand slam of all four majors in one year.
"I definitely want to get to 10 majors so I need two more," said Sorenstam. "To win a grand slam is very difficult but I’ll be trying."
Sorenstam led by five shots overnight and finished on 15-under-par 273 after a closing 68 that included an opening streak of three birdies in four holes from the second.
American Rosie Jones, still without a major victory, was second on 281 after a 71, her third runners-up finish in a ‘big four’ tournament.
The 45-year-old is planning to retire at the end of the year. Fellow Americans Laura Diaz (68) and Cristie Kerr (71) tied for third place on five-under 283.
"I’m very excited and very happy," said Sorenstam, 34. "I couldn’t have asked for a better week and everything seemed to go my way. "I will remember this Easter Sunday for a long time."
The win extended an unbeaten run for Sorenstam stretching back to the Mizuno Classic in Japan last November and she matched Nancy Lopez’s five-in-a-row record from 1978.
The Swede also joined Amy Alcott and Betsy King as the only triple winners of the Kraft Nabisco.
She said she had become even more focused after the break-up of her marriage to David Esch.
Sorenstam, who filed for divorce in February, said: "On the golf course is where I feel happiest. I love what I do and I know where I'm going".
India lacked positive attitude
THE performance of the Indian team on the fifth day of the Bangalore Test not only let down Indian cricket fans but also enabled Pakistan to level the series 1-1. The reason behind India's defeat was a lack of positive attitude.
After the departure of Virender Sehwag, none of the Indian batsmen tried to play for a win. They were more inclined to draw the match rather than win it. As a result, they came under pressure and easily lost wickets.
If we take into account the performance of Sourav Ganguly over the past two years, it seems that time has come to give him "rest".
Anjiv Singh Jaswal
Solid as a rock
Full marks to Rahul Dravid for scoring two hundreds in the Kolkata Test. This proves that he is not Mr Dependable but the Rock of Gibraltar. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble and Laxmipathy Balaji also made useful contributions to make this memorable win possible.
The umpiring of Steve Bucknor shows that age and long experience have impaired his judging faculties. He himself admitted in Kolkata that Sachin was not out. It goes to Sachin's credit that he accepted the wrong decision in the right spirit.
Prof Y.L. Chopra
Congratulations to Rahul Dravid for winning the man-of-the-match award in the Kolkata Test. Young wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick also deserves praise for ably supporting Dravid.
Gurudev Singh Jain
It was thanks to Pankaj Dharmani that Punjab entered the final of the Ranji Trophy be beating Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. He stood like a rock before the accurate bowling of Ajit Agarkar and Sairaj Bahutule to remain unbeaten on a match-winning 86. This season, Dharmani has made 125 against Uttar Pradesh, 85 against Assam, 92 not out against Baroda and 50 against Maharashtra. On the basis of his performance over the years, he deserves a place in the national side.
It is high time the selectors stop overlooking his consistent efforts.