A deserving victory for India

Published : Apr 10, 2004 00:00 IST

EVERY event relating to the current visit to Pakistan by the Indian cricket team is portrayed as historic.

EVERY event relating to the current visit to Pakistan by the Indian cricket team is portrayed as historic. In the event, the intensity of the emotion triggered by the magnificent Test victory at Multan by a huge margin of an innings and 52 runs seems somewhat diluted. But that should not diminish the value and character of cricket that the Indians put on display.

In a sport where there is a cornucopia of icons in every sphere, picking a dozen or so is an effortless exercise for any avid chronicler. But identifying a star in the genre of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar or Anil Kumble is a different ball game altogether.

The triple century that Sehwag compiled to carve a new frontier of excellence on India's batting canvas was a magnum opus. Proficient and powerful, the innings, punctuated by the bravura that is associated always with Sehwag's approach, elevated India's batting to a different plane of delight.

Immensely satisfying was that the first triple century by an Indian should surface against Pakistan, whose bowling resources are usually reckoned as world class from the days of Fazal Mahmood.

The collective effort of India's batsmanship boomed and blossomed in a rare display of charm, character and class to destroy whatever vigour that the Pakistanis managed to work out after the devastating impact from the reverses in the Samsung one-day series. If Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj symbolised India's excellence in batting, the prodigious spinner Anil Kumble cast a spell on the opponent.

With the young Irfan Pathan, assisted well by Balaji, adding a new dimension to pace and swing, Kumble emphasised that his absence from the stage on account of an injured shoulder had no noticeable impact on the sum and substance of his leg spin bowling. The proof came from the manner in which he shackled the batsmen in the second innings.

The first ever win in Pakistan clearly enhances the image of Indian cricket long slammed by critics as being incapable of being aggressive beyond the borders. This makes the Multan win doubly sweet.

Every success has a flip side. At Multan, it was the decision of Rahul Dravid to declare the innings when Tendulkar was six runs away from a well-deserved double century.

Opinions were divided, with a section indignantly deploring Dravid, while some impartial observers hailed the move as bold, challenging and in keeping with cricketing ethos.

The declaration, said to be effected after alerting Tendulkar at the crease, cannot be faulted. Initially, it was projected as though the maestro was annoyed by the timing, which overlooked the fact that the batsman knew it was coming. Events which followed confirmed the efficacy of the declaration and its timing.

The sympathy wave for Tendulkar being denied a double hundred in this memorable match needs to be tempered by the fact that the batsman was given an indication about what was coming.

The heat of the debate will naturally die in the euphoria of the triumph. What the team needs at the moment is to be more pragmatic and take the victory in its stride.

For Pakistan, despite some outstanding batting performances by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana, the humiliation of successive defeats can be very disturbing.

There is a cacophony of noises about the outcome of matches and the quality of pitches prepared by a foreigner.

Without a hint of hesitation it must be said that the behaviour of the crowds is extremely sporting and warm; but the projection that the contests lacked intensity, or were influenced by extraneous considerations, is absurd. So are the insinuations of match fixing. As for the pitches, the benefit, or the lack of it, goes evenly to both sides.

It is time the critics in Pakistan based the evaluation of their team's showing on a logical, cricketing perspective. The assumption that Pakistan's bowling was far superior to India's batting appears to be misplaced.

On the contrary, what has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt is that the balance acquired by India both in batting and bowling, especially after Anil Kumble had joined the ranks, is lethal. Pakistan should recognise this reality, and rework its strategies.

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