Pak will take heart from India's collapse

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Way back in 1996-97 when South Africa and India played back-to-back Test series in India and then in South Africa, it was the Indians who won 2-1 in India and the South Africans won 2-0 in South Africa. India could have won the last Test there to make it 2-1, but a freak rain shower and that too only in the ground and a mile or so around it meant that India could not take the last couple of wickets to win the game. The South Africans were thus able to claim that they had won the battle of the Tests 3-2 in the six Tests played between the two teams.

Here in Sharjah, the two teams will play against each other at least twice and if they meet in the finals, it will be the eighth one-day game they will be playing in the last three weeks. And make no mistake, the South Africans, though they have lost the one-day series in India 3-2, will try and win both the games here in Sharjah so that they can say that in seven matches they won four times and thus were the better side.

It is not a bad way to think at all and it does give the side an added incentive to avenge its defeat in India. The South Africans will also look back at their last trip to Sharjah where they had an outstanding tournament and though they are without some of their regulars and therefore not looking unbeatable, they are still a formidable side as the Indians find out.

The pitch in Sharjah is a batting paradise with the ball coming on nicely onto the bat. The quicker bowlers can get the ball to move and if they are prepared to put in the extra effort, they can also get a little bounce which can give the best of batsmen a bad time.

But this pitch certainly did not have the kind of life that the Indian total would indicate. Tendulkar's initial forward movement can get him into trouble if the ball is not pitched up and moves in sharply and he has been bowled with that kind of a delivery quite often and Pollock got him here with a perfectly pitched inswinger. As Ganguly and Dravid tried to consolidate, it did not look possible that India with its strong batting line-up would collapse the way they did.

Elworthy, who had taken a bit of a battering by the Indians, made up with an economic spell and with Ntini making a fine comeback to the South African team, the Indian scorecard made sorry reading. But for Jadeja's cool head and his last wicket partnership with Srinath, it would have looked even worse and the way he farmed the strike showed his awareness of the tricky position India was in.

India's batting collapse will give confidence to the Pakistanis as the old rivals gear up for the clash that lights up Sharjah. The Pakistanis, having lost the one-day series to Sri Lanka, will be looking to get back in favour with their fans and Sharjah is invariably a venue that has given them a fresh lease of life.

By winning the last Test of the series against Sri Lanka, their confidence is back, and though they will be without Saeed Anwar, the return to form of Inzamam-ul-Haq is a good sign. The West Indies' victory has showed that new captains are bringing with them a change in luck and with the wily Miandad in charge, Pakistan could well be on the familiar road of success in Sharjah!

Professional Management Group

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