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Cricket must be the winner

Harsha Bhogle runs a commentary on the forthcoming Indo-Pak series

HARSHA BHOGLE makes a strong pitch for cricket sans politics. "Are we talking cricket?" he asks incredulously. "Cricketers should only play and not be carriers of the baggage of politics." Obviously, he is referring to India's forthcoming tour of Pakistan that has made temperatures to soar on both sides of the border.

It is a goodwill visit but doesn't mean that the boys should lower their guard. "They must exhibit the same spirit and play with the same intensity they showed in the series Down under," he said while interacting with a small group at ITC Kakatiya Sheraton.

Appreciating skipper Sourav Ganguly's belief - `even if we play 60 per cent of what we played in Australia, we will win the Pak-series', Bhogle says, "Many may feel the key to piling up runs is to read tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's line correctly, I think he is just overrated. Akhtar has very erratic test record. Only if our batsmen play their natural game, and if the lower order clicks we can comfortably walk away winners."

Pakistan with two quickies at their disposal will certainly go for flat track to pin down Indians. "Tracks or tricks, we are certainly a better side than Pakistan. But they will be at their aggressive best before the home crowd. All we need is to keep our cool, field well and go in for a batting attack." According to Harsha, while Anil Kumble can be a match-turner fresh from his haul of 24 wickets in the recent Australia-series, it looks like Zaheer and VVS Laxman will be formidable forces to reckon with in the batting line-up.

The genial commentator found himself on a sticky wicket when he showered praise on Pakistani hospitality.

A few deshbakhts went wild accusing Harsha of "siding with them" and saying predictable things such as, "Indian hospitality is the best."

But he stuck to his guns. "In 1997 when I had been to Pakistan on a official tour, I was astonished at the unmatched hospitality accorded to me. Just as no one in the home turf would like to harm Pakistani cricketers if they came to India, I don't think our boys face any threat, the least a political one. In both countries, cricket is religion and who wants to harm gods? Let cricket be winner in the series."

In his elements, Harsha guffaws at the extra cover, "Security has been turned unnecessarily into an overblown subject. Can we play naturally, when gunmen trot behind, forward, left and right at slips, long leg and everywhere?"

Either we take part in a military exercise or that's not cricket!


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