A remarkable triumph for Woolmer and Inzamam

PAKISTAN's remarkable victory on the last day of the Bangalore Test — with just 6.1 overs remaining for India to carve out a draw and win the series 1-0 — brings to the fore the new work culture in Pakistani cricket introduced by the coach-captain partnership of Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

PAKISTAN's remarkable victory on the last day of the Bangalore Test — with just 6.1 overs remaining for India to carve out a draw and win the series 1-0 — brings to the fore the new work culture in Pakistani cricket introduced by the coach-captain partnership of Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

In Bangalore, `Spiderman' Inzamam set a trap for the Indians and waited for them to fall prey. Not only did the Pakistan think tank set the strategy, but the entire team worked to a plan. Whether it be the offensive launched by Inzamam with Younis Khan playing the supporting role to perfection on the opening day, when the team was struggling at seven for two, or the timing of the declaration on the fourth day evening, or the field set and bowling changes on the final day, Pakistan illustrated that with strong commitment even a so-called weak team on paper could win a Test match on Indian soil.

Right from the time Woolmer took over from Javed Miandad as coach after the disastrous home series last year against India, the Pakistan think tank has emphasised on finding specific roles for each player in the team. The promotion of Shoaib Malik to the number three slot in the one-dayers last year was an example of experimentation to achieve this end, as is the reluctance of the coach to include the Superfast Rawalpindi Express, Shoaib Akhtar, in his unit after the paceman did not think much about the coach's suggestion during the Australian tour that he shorten his run-up and be more disciplined in his bowling.

A rational approach was of course expected from Woolmer, who like John Wright did for India, may soon help Pakistan become a force to contend with again. After all, it was the Englishman who had given coaching a new technological dimension during his stint with South African in the mid and late 1990s. With Inzamam as his ally, Woolmer has deflected the priority in the Pakistani mental make-up from flair, dynamism and individual heroism to skills adapted to findings from data analysis, and man management within a collective set up.

The Bangalore Test brings to fore a number of such strategies. Younis Khan's propensity to bat on and on is an example. Younis was elevated to the position of vice-captain, a brilliant exercise in man management, and then was earmarked as the sheet anchor of the Pakistan team, a la Dravid for India. His knock of 147 at Kolkata had been erased with his second innings duck and it was time for him to stand up and be counted again. Younis took on the mantle of leading by example after his captain duly compiled a century in his 100th Test match. Pakistan ran up a huge first innings total to ensure it could not lose the match. The game plan then was to make India bat on a fifth day breaking wicket.

The declaration from the Pakistani skipper meant that the bait was dangling before the Indians on the final day — they could go for a win or play for a draw. If Pakistan succeeded to force India to choose the second option, it would give Inzamam and his boys just the chance to force a victory and in the end, that's exactly what happened.

The post lunch session on the final day saw the match turn around completely. Annals in sporting history are replete with matches veering from predictable finishes to unexpected endings. Tennis matches especially have witnessed players staving off match point defeat situations and converting them to historic victories. Every sport will have a memorable encounter that will be recalled delightedly by the triumphant players. The Bangalore Test will be one that Inzamam will refer to as an important milestone in his career.

When Sehwag ran himself out, Inzamam knew he was in with a chance. Grabbing the opportunity with both hands, the Pakistan skipper applied relentless pressure on the psyched out Indians. From a relatively safe position of 87 for one, India hurtled to an ignominious defeat. Pakistan's approach in the last two sessions was as positive as it could get. Inzamam had a ring of close in fielders, each one intimidating and badgering the Indian batsmen.

The post lunch session on the final day was just the script Inzamam had hoped for. Suddenly the pitch was looking vicious and the bowlers unplayable. Wicket preservation became the immediate task of Indian batsmen. The middle order and the lower order, with the exception of Kumble, could not handle the pressure and in the end Pakistan ended the Test series on a happy note. And most importantly, they might just have hit the right button to balance their passion with discipline and organisation which could help them in the years to come.