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Woolmer doing wonders to Pakistan's fortunes

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 15:33 [IST]
 
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Bob Woolmer's induction as coach of the Pakistan team has done wonders to their never-ending topsy-turvy fortunes. The tech-savvy South African coach, who has carved a niche for his man-management skills, seems to have brought about a metamorphosis in the side ever since he took over.

Always known to be a side with truckloads of talent, the men in green has had often allowed that talent to be put on the backburner and ensured that off the field controversies like groupism within the side, players infighting, constant chopping and change of captains take centrestage.

With Woolmer at the coaching helm, all those are a thing of the past. A strict martinet, that Woolmer is; it hardly took him long before he was able to know the Pakistani team ropes.Much to his comfort, he has a cool-as-a-cucumber captain in Inzamam-ul Haq, who with his reticent looks always, has had a calming influence on everybody in the side.

To have someone, who's not very expressive as far as his countenance is concerned, but always looks to bring out the best out of his boys; the burly right-hander is being seen as an ideal foil for the South African.

When Woolmer took over, Pakistan cricket was its lowest ebb. Humbled comprehensively by India in both the Test and ODI series in their own backyard, Woolmer has begun to deliver the goods in a phased manner.

No doubt, Pakistan failed to win the ICC Champions Trophy in England. But there were enough signs to suggest that the Pakistan team was feeling increasingly settled under the stewardship of Woolmer.

They have put it across their archrivals India four times on the trot and that's no cinch thing. Sure, Inzamam's boys not only must have done a lot of soul searching on their shortfalls but also a plenty of homework on their opponents to smack off revival signs.

The so-called "killer instinct" was sadly lacking in Pakistan side and for the first time in many years, one got the impression that this team sooner or later was beginning to possess this lethal weapon in their armory.

Having finished second-best to Sri Lanka in the Pak Tel Cup final at Lahore, the confidence of the Pakistanis did dip a bit. They were looking hopelessly out of sorts in the opening Faisalabad Test where they went down to the Lankans in a pretty insipid display.

There was every possibility that the Pakistanis, whose confidence took a huge battering, would fall apart in the second and final Test in Karachi. Like battle-hardened campaigners, the young Pakistanis came back with a vengeance and swept the Lankans off their feet with a sterling display in the Karachi Test.

Mind you, Pakistan went into the Test match sans two of their frontline quick bowlers- Shoaib Akhtar and Mohhammad Sami but notwithstanding that, they turned in a stuendous performance, which speaks volumes of their new-found tenacity.

The come-from-behind triumph in the second Test, which also enabled them to square the two Test series was a harbinger of many good things to come. Then came the mouth-watering India-Pakistan face-off at the Eden Gardens.

The men in green lived up to its impressive record at the Eden. They had never lost a tie at the said venue, and continued its winning streak as they spiked the Indian guns in a magnificent run-chase powered by a smashing maiden century from rookie Salman Butt.

For long, Pakistan has struggled to find the right combination at the top of the order be it the Tests or the ODIs. The likes of Yasser Hamid, Imran Nazir, Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar and the latest young prodigy Salman Butt have been tried out at the international level to see if any of them can make the Pakistan cap a permanent one for themselves.

Though these young guns did come up with solid performances; the consistency that their team braintrust were looking for, was sorely missing. The exploits of Salman Butt must have warmed the Pakistani hearts since for long they have been starved of a bloke, who could take the attack to the opposition ever since the likes of Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail took a bow from the game.

Butt's superlative knock at the Eden bodes well for the future and hopefully he would use the Eden feat as a springboard to clamber greater heights.

With it, Pakistan seems to have addressed some of their batting worries. A clearer picture would emerge when the men in green set off for the grueling tour of Australia.

Woolmer's biggest test will undoubtedly be in Australia. The Australians with their cogent bowling attack and on tracks, which afford a lot of bounce and seam movement; they are sure to make life difficult for the Pakistani batters. Their main weakling is their batting unlike their bowling department, which can match itself to the Aussies in some way if not the whole hog.

Only if Woolmer can ensure that the Pakistan batsmen hit the run-making button on the Australain sojourn and if that is the case; we could be in for an intriguing battle between the bat and the bowl!

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