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A big relief for the Pakistan team

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KEY MAN: Pakistan’s hopes of squaring the series would hinge greatly on Shoaib Akhtar, seen arriving in Bangalore on Wednesday.
KEY MAN: Pakistan’s hopes of squaring the series would hinge greatly on Shoaib Akhtar, seen arriving in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Younis once again looked the part as a captain, writes Imran Khan

The Kolkata match was an example of how Test wickets must not be prepared at a time when the game’s most traditional form is being threatened by the more result-oriented one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket.

The wicket did not aid pace bowling at the start, and as the Test drew to a close it was clear that it was not assisting the spinners either. The game was a throwback to our times when teams played Test cricket with the primary aim of not losing, and victory was a mere bonus.

That said, I am sure that the Indians will still feel that they should have won this game, especially when they had Pakistan on the mat at 150 for five in the first innings, and 78 for four on the last day.

I was a little disappointed with the way Harbhajan Singh bowled in the second innings. Admittedly, the ball was turning very slowly, but he could have bowled an outside the off-stump line, rather than the off and middle line he was persisting with. Harbhajan has been magical at the Eden Gardens in the past, but then, it would have been hard for any spinner to extract vicious turn from such a slow track.

For Pakistan, a draw would come as a relief because it was clear from the second day itself that it was the best result it could hope for.

Wasim Jaffer looked exceptional against a below par Shoaib Akhtar.

He was also severe on the inexperienced Sohail Tanvir, and the fluency of his stroke play was a treat to watch.

Once Jaffer laid the platform, India’s middle-order made merry with just about everybody, including the local favourite Sourav Ganguly, scoring heavily. It was hard for the Pakistani attack both times, as this Indian batting line-up can only be unsettled by a special bowling effort on a more sporting wicket.

Happy and baffled

The visitors will hope that the good form the two Ys — Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf — displayed at the Eden Gardens will be on show in Bangalore as well.

However, the stand-out performer for them was once again Misbah-ul-Haq, and it makes me both happy and baffled to see this 33-year-old perform so well. Happy, because he is such a great find for Pakistan; baffled because he was not given opportunities earlier.

However, if Pakistan wants to square this series, the man who simply must perform in Bangalore is Akhtar.

He was not at his best in Kolkata owing to fever, and this severely dented his team’s chances. He has to make a mark in this series, and for that he has to lead the attack. The other bowlers are too new, or just lack the experience and ability to lead an attack.

Gutsy and selfless

Younis once again looked the part as a captain. He has always been a gutsy, selfless cricketer, and it is a shame that he does not want to lead the side.

As I said in my earlier article, Shoaib Malik has the attributes of a good captain, but temperament, shrewdness and aggression come to nothing when your own place in the side is not cemented.

Malik has to perform and perform consistently, only then can the other attributes be used to their fullest potential.

(Gameplan)

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