A success in every sense

WHAT an epoch-making series it has turned out to be! Call it historic, momentous, eventful or memorable; no description seems appropriate to mirror truly the mood sweeping across the sub-continent ever since India and Pakistan began the cricket series.

No cricketing activity of this age, or perhaps in any era of this sport, can easily be recalled as a parallel with regard to the intensity, depth, dimensions and passion of India's 3-2 triumph against Pakistan in the Samsung Trophy series. The euphoria generated by the first ever one-day series victory across the border is still reverberating in every lane and by-lane of this vast country.

That this mood of well-being was not easily achieved can be seen from a comparative study of the strengths of the teams. Every encounter was a cliff-hanger. The first combat at Karachi where India won by five runs in the last over set the tone and tenor for a thrilling schedule that stretched the nerves of every enthusiast. It was a delight for the chroniclers and essayists who were preserving for posterity the swings and swerves of the contests that brought the best out of the combatants.

Cricket today may miss the narrative genius of masters such as Neville Cardus, Jack Fingleton or Pelham Warner to capture the essence and romance of the series in print; but the influence of the media of every description was all pervasive and kept the followers on a trip of excitement all through. Courts were convened to pronounce the verdict in support of the demands of the television viewers in India.

This visit to Pakistan by an Indian team and its impact cannot just be measured in terms of runs, wickets and victories. It goes far beyond the realm of sport and is more in the area of human relationship and understanding between the peoples of the countries, who have been at loggerheads since partition. The spirit that surged through the series, be it in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar or Lahore, underlined the cementing force of sport as an instrument in unifying people in their quest for peace and prosperity.

It was heartening to see thousands waving the Indian tricolour, which had been stitched to the Pakistani pennant; women and children sporting national colours on their cheek. Moving were the moments when the packed stands erupted in appreciation whenever anything spectacular occurred on the field, regardless of which side's batsman or bowler performed that. Never before has anyone witnessed the spectacle of Indian and Pakistani spectators literally standing shoulder to shoulder savouring the moments that sailed into the realm of fantasy.

The masterly knock of Sachin Tendulkar received the same degree of appreciation as that of the burly home team skipper, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who scored two centuries in the series. The Indian speedsters, Pathan, Balaji and Zaheer enjoyed the adulation usually reserved in Pakistan for Shoaib, Sami and Shabbir.

Remarkable too was the mood of camaraderie that at once smashed the ugly side of mistrust and misgivings of people of the two nations. More than the success recorded by the Indian team, the tour was rewarding in uniting the minds of the people, and impacting on the world yet again that sport transcends everything — colour, race, class and creed.

It goes without saying that the cricket confirmed the edge that India enjoyed in batting. The projection that every encounter would be close and tense proved right. What really turned the tide for India, which trailed 1-2 after the win in the nerve-wracking opening match, was the resilience displayed by Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif, not to speak of the contribution by Yuvraj Singh, in the fourth contest at Lahore. True, the cumulative bravura of Indian batting was never visible, but the individual incandescence of Sachin, Dravid, and Laxman more than compensated for the lack of punch from Sourav and Sehwag.

The pre-series forecast projected that the more powerful Pakistani attack would subdue the rivals. A critical review does not substantiate this assessment; in fact, experts in Pakistan blamed the pace attack as being inconsistent, and, at times stingless, to trouble the solid Indian batting line-up.

Pronounced as modest, the Indian bowlers distinguished themselves in tight situations. The emerging new duo of Pathan and Balaji will now complement the strike power of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Agarkar. After initial misgivings, left-arm spinner Murali Kartik bowled with great ingenuity.

What needs to be stressed however is the relief that nothing untoward occurred during the series. The security system, which the Pakistani Government assured would be world class, was perfect to meet the demands made by India.

A crude attempt to raise the bogey of match-fixing found no takers. And, happily, died a natural death. The response from the Pakistani captain to this poser was rather dramatic. The match-fixing query was too feeble to disturb a perfect symphony which the series was in every sense.