Pakistan, having won a good game against Australia the previous day, would have been quite confident and the Indians, coming out of a disastrous series, would have been just a little apprehensive of what lay in store for them.
They decided to pick Laxman in the final eleven after his superb stroke-filled innings in the Test match and simultaneously decided to have Tendulkar drop down to number four. It meant that one of the most successful of opening partnerships was going to be dismantled. The thinking behind it was sound for it gave the in-form batsman the chance to capitalise on his good form, while at the same time keeping the left-right combination intact.
Tendulkar has got most of his centuries opening the batting in limited-overs cricket, but with Dravid being out of form, it made sense for the little champion to try and shore up the middle-order.
The wicket at the Gabba has been top class for cricket, with there being early life for the new ball bowlers and then turning to be a good pitch for batting. Laxman had played some handsome pull shots in the Test match, but Steve Waugh had a very attacking field with most fielders being in catching positions behind and so the boundaries came thick and fast. But with a field spread out in a limited overs game, it was not going to be easy to get the ball away.
Waqar Younis too had a point or two to prove to those who had left him out of the original tour party. He bowled a superb opening spell that did not give the Indian batsmen any room to play their shots and the Pakistanis also bowled short of driving length. That did not allow the Indians to get on to the front foot, where they are more comfortable.
Ganguly might not have fond memories of the previous time he played a limited overs game here, for that was the only match he played, and then found himself the victim of a whispering campaign that kept him out of the national team for another five years. He must have definitely wanted to leave the ground this time with pleasanter memories and to that end, he decided that he would play the role of a sheet anchor as well as try to keep the score ticking.
Any side that gives Tendulkar a life is bound to be worried that they will have to pay for it, but in recent times he has got bowled trying to play across the line. This time too, he perished to the underrated Razzaq and lost his middle stump.
Great players like him should not be getting out bowled in this manner, for it signifies a chink in the technique and that needs working on.
Ganguly got tremendous support from that doughty fighter Robin Singh who took his time getting used to the pace and bounce of the Australian pitches. But once he did that, he began to play the shots he is capable of. His running between the wickets also put some urgency in the Indian effort, which till then had looked lethargic. In fact, it was downright disappointing to see that the opportunities to get the extra run were being regularly missed simply because some were not ready to make the extra effort.
Not only in the running between the wickets, but also in the fielding, that special effort was missing, particularly in the final tense overs.
India kept the pressure up by picking wickets regularly, and at one stage had Pakistan on the ropes. But the Pakistanis do not give up against India, and first Youhana and then Saqlain and Waqar showed that they were prepared to go the extra mile for their country.
Youhana, like Razaaq, is underrated and he is a fighter to the core. He played sensibly, mixing caution with aggression and kept his side in the hunt even though wickets were falling around him. Waqar, who came into the team as a replacement during the Shoaib imbroglio, had a point or two to prove. He bowled a superb line in the first session and once more displayed his fighting qualities as a batsman by sharing in a determined match-winning stand with Saqlain.
The Indians will have to do something drastic to reverse this losing trend. They are not a bad side, but there is an air of resignation about their game, which can be seen by the way they take the field.
There is a jaded look about the team and so the joy of playing a sport and representing your country is not always clear. They may well have to shuffle their batting order, for Dravid is going through one of those bad patches that every player goes through. Before it turns into a crisis of confidence, some remedy is necessary.
More crucially, the attitude has to change if India is to salvage this tour from being an utterly forgettable one.
Professional Management Group