A moment to cherish for Pakistan juniors

A bunch of young Pakistani players kicked up dust and memories at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium on January 27.

K. C. VIJAYA KUMAR

A bunch of young Pakistani players kicked up dust and memories at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium on January 27. On that day, the junior team won the Asia Cup Under-17 title with a six-wicket victory over the defending champion India. And for the regulars at the Stadium's Club House it was time to jog their memory and traverse back to 1987 when Imran Khan swamped Tauseef Ahmed in a bear hug after the off-spinner nailed India's last wicket — Roger Binny — to signal a 16-run Test victory and a series triumph.

The victorious Pakistan under-17 team. — Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

It was an epochal moment in Pakistan's cricket history while India mourned the defeat and Sunil Gavaskar's last signature — a battling 96. Imran's Pakistan never looked back and amidst a wave of flashbulbs, won the World Cup in Australia in 1992. Perhaps the Pakistan Under-17 team members can take their cue from history while they chase higher honours and endless dreams of playing for their country at the senior level.

The final pitted favourite India against the challenger Pakistan. And the tale had a fine-print that reflected India's 71-run victory in an earlier Group I second phase match against Pakistan and the host's coach Venkatesh Prasad whispered, "psychological advantage." However Pakistan coach Mohsin Kamal reiterated that his team would play positive cricket. In the final it was obvious that India was down for the count when Prasad stopped taking down notes while his wards wilted during the Pakistan chase.

India had earlier scored 230 thanks largely to a 51 by allrounder Piyush Chawla and his 62-run seventh-wicket partnership with Prem Prateek. Piyush fought bravely after the top-order, featuring in-form batsmen — Uday Kaul, Ali Murtaza, Raviraj Patil and Ravikanth Shukla — surprisingly failed. The Pakistan spin quartet — leg-spinner Fiaz Ahmed, left-arm spinner Khwaja Raza Ali Dar and off-spinners Fahad Zaman and Adnan Raza Ali — enjoyed their spells against the Indian batsmen who played against the spin and often chopped deliveries onto the stumps.

The Pakistani pursuit had a sense of abandon as skipper Nasir Jamshaid (31) waded into seamers Umesh Kharvi and Jagrut Mehta with the gusto of a starving man tucking into a full-course meal. It also helped that Umesh and Jagrut played on emotion rather than on skill despite coach Prasad's repeated suggestion that his boys should consider the final as just another match and not let the pressure sneak in. Nasir's cameo topped with blistering strikes down the ground and his earlier knocks in the tournament were proof enough that he is a bright prospect.

Pakistan's Adnan Raza Ali castles Rohit Sharma in the final. Adnan shone with the bat, too, with an unbeaten 76 in Pakistan's run-chase and put on a 108-run partnership with Fiaz Ahmed (right). — Pics. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

The chase had its testing moments after Jamshaid, Yasir Arafat and Rameez Raja succumbed with impetuous shots but `Man of the Final' Adnan Raza Ali (76 not out, 90b, 5x4, 1x6) and Fiaz Ahmed (63) kept their cool with a 108-run fourth-wicket partnership that kept the asking rate within the six-run-per-over mark. The left-handers displayed maturity and chanced their arms only in the last five overs to leave India fuming with inept fielding and bowlers who buckled under pressure. Both Adnan and Fiaz had their reprieves with the score reading 171 as Prem Prateek and Raviraj Patil grassed easy chances. Adnan and Fiaz, who also doubles up as a nagging leg-spinner, will be names that will crop up in the Pakistan Selection Committee meetings in the forthcoming years.

India indeed played a below par game in the summit clash and the downswing in its fortunes was more glaring as the team had powered ahead with a cohesive force in the earlier matches. India whetted its appetite with victories over Nepal and Bahrain. And the hunger for runs and victories was obvious in the centuries by left-hander Uday Kaul (208 not out) and Raviraj Patil (123) against Bahrain. Uday Kaul, who also donned the wicket-keeper's gloves, gave extra options to the management and he displayed a penchant for pockmarking the cover fence. Uday has the talent but a propensity to let adrenaline get the better of his senses can undermine his efforts. And it was obvious in the final against Pakistan when he indulged in needless aggression.

Pakistan's Adnan Raza Ali castles Rohit Sharma in the final. Adnan shone with the bat, too, with an unbeaten 76 in Pakistan's run-chase and put on a 108-run partnership with Fiaz Ahmed (right). — Pics. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

The Indian team had its acme in the league game against Pakistan when left-handers Ali Murtaza (109) and Ravi Kanth Shukla (40) powered the total to 291 and the traditional rival, despite skipper Jamshaid's 76, succumbed against a galloping run-rate and the guiles of leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (four for 40). Piyush was indeed a gain for India and the allrounder has it in him to ease into the higher grades. Pakistan was bowled out for 220 and the team learnt its lessons so hard that in the final, the team displayed a tough and consistent performance to outplay India.

Pakistan had earlier cruised past Bahrain and Nepal and the stage was set for the semi-finals between the big four in Asia — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India and Pakistan qualified from Group I while Sri Lanka and Bangladesh secured their semi-final berths from their Group II encounters at Visakhapatnam. Bangladesh, with a surprise victory over Sri Lanka, was upbeat but Pakistan guided by Adnan Raza (60 not out) and Fiaz Ahmed (22 not out) secured a seven-wicket victory in the semifinals.

The India-Sri Lanka clash could only go one way after seamer Umesh Kharvi scalped three wickets in an early burst. Sri Lanka scored 193 and had its moments to cheer when S. Pathirana displayed shades of Jayasuriya and scored a classy 74. However the Lankan total proved inadequate as left-hander Ravikanth Shukla (96 not out) played an innings of substance and style. Shukla started attacking early and was lucky when his inner-edges off a few premeditated shots missed the stumps. He later settled down to play straight and drove the spinners to distraction and powered India to a seven-wicket victory.

Piyush Chawla top-scored for India with 51 runs in the final. — Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH-

Earlier, the minnows ranging from Afghanistan to Maldives split into four groups, played the qualifiers in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. And their aim, as reiterated by Asian Cricket Council Development Officer Roger Binny, was `to gain exposure and experience.' The teams played the game with an amateur spirit but their passion does hint at cricket spreading its roots.

The tournament revealed that cricketing potential is thriving in Asia. A structure is in place, India and Pakistan have their respective cricketing academies and there is an emergence of quite a few players with the right mix of talent and temperament through various age-group competitions. Perhaps those days of Imran Khan picking Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis at the nets and grooming them, is a thing of the past.

The scores:

Final: India 230 in 45 overs (Piyush Chawla 51, Ravikanth Shukla 29, Raviraj Patil 28, K. Raza Ali Dar three for 40) lost to Pakistan 233 for four in 43.1 overs (Adnan Raza Ali 76 not out, Fiaz Ahmed 63, Nasir Jamshaid 31).

Semi-finals: Sri Lanka 193 in 41.1 overs (S. Pathirana 74, A. Mathews 56, S. Soysa 25, Umesh Kharvi four for 24, Shabaaz Nadeeem three for 45) lost to India 194 for three in 37.4 overs (Ravikant Shukla 96 not out, Uday Kaul 43, A. G. Pradeep 35 not out).

Bangladesh 152 in 44 overs (Ishraq Sonnet 42, Mazharuddin 33, Nawaz Sardar three for 15) lost to Pakistan 154 for three in 31.5 overs (Adnan Raza Ali 60 not out, Yasir Arafat 28).