Young guns, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, are proving to be excellent finishers, writes Imran Khan
President Pervez Musharaff, while playing to the gallery in Lahore, said that Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked good with his hairstyle. Well, truth be told, the whole Indian team is looking good after two impressive wins in the Hutch Cup. A win in Multan will seal Pakistan's fate and give Rahul Dravid's men an unbeatable lead.
The Indians did not put a foot wrong in Rawalpindi and Lahore. Their strategy, except for the promotion of Irfan Pathan, was spot on. Their captain has been a calming influence at the crease whenever the going gets tough, while Sachin Tendulkar is looking controlled and aggressive at the same time, which is always bad news for the opposition. And the young guns, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, are proving to be excellent finishers.
Great teams have killer instinct and never concede a psychological advantage. The Pakistan team let the Indians off the hook after two wins and it remains to be seen whether or not India make full use of the strong position they are in.
From the evidence of Lahore, the key players for the Indians are Tendulkar, Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. There has been a tremendous improvement in Dhoni's game since 2004. He now has great maturity to complement his repertoire of strokes. He came in at a crucial time in Lahore, but his incredible stroke selection and placement took the game away from the hosts.
Dhoni is also a rare talent because he is one of the few players who are equally good at driving the ball as well as pulling it. He has great reflexes and never seems in two minds when he is at the crease.
As for Tendulkar, he won the last game for India. Mohammed Asif and Umer Gul were pretty unplayable in the first 15 overs, and he was unbelievably assured while leaving the ball. This is not easy in a limited-overs game because the asking rate is always playing on your mind. But Tendulkar had faith in his ability to play shots later, and at the end of his innings he was going at almost a run a ball a truly classy stuff.
The Indians still have major problems with their bowling, and the only reason they are getting away is because of Pakistan's bizarre batting order. Irfan Pathan is good at the start of the innings, but they are missing a good spinner in the middle overs. The Pakistanis are not maximizing on this weakness because they are always four down by the 20th over.
Time for tough decisions
It's now time for Inzamam to take some hard decisions and lead from the front. The hosts have to make Younis Khan come in at three and Inzamam bat at four. Mohammed Yousuf should come in at five while Butt and Shoaib Malik should open. Pakistan have already missed a trick by not playing Mohammed Sami. He would have lent potency to the attack and along with Gul and Asif could have caused some problems for the Indians at Lahore.
They have missed yet another trick in Multan by not keeping Danish Kaneria in the squad. The heat and conditions in Multan are conducive to spin, and the leg-spinner would have been a good selection in the absence of Shahid Afridi. Sami needs good advice and his indifferent form is a sad comment on the man management skills of the team's top brass.
Crux of the problems
It's also baffling that a pace-led attack like Pakistan has spinner Mushtaq Ahmed for a bowling coach. All the advice I got for my bowling was from John Snow, Mike Proctor and the great Dennis Lillee. Batsmen and spinners can't coach pacers and that's the crux of many of Pakistan's problems.
Pakistan have better resources and are still the better team. Unfortunately, they don't have the strategy to exploit their resources. That's why I wish Pakistan had Greg Chappell and not Bob Woolmer as coach. A bit of Australian aggression would have helped the laidback Inzamam. On the other hand, Woolmer's negative county cricket mindset has been completely detrimental. (Gameplan)