Cricket the real winner at Karachi

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Sunday, March 14, 2004, 15:47 [IST]
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For a change, the Men in Blue have got off to a flying start. The Karachi ODI had all the drama of a typical Indo-Pak clash written over it. A nail-biting finish was just what the doctor ordered and when Moin Khan failed to enact a Javed Miandad, it was joi de vivre all over India.

The first match of a series is always important in the sense that the victor has a psychological edge over the vanquished. On numerous occasions, India has squandered the initiative in such crucial junctures, but this time they held their nerves to edge Pakistan by five runs to win a thriller in a match which saw a run feast. The stage has been set for some pulsating battles ahead.

On a day when emotions seemed to have got the better of the players, cricket was the real winner at Karachi. With security fears laid to rest, India can now look forward to the rest of the series with calm and composure. It may be recalled that Karachi and Peshawar had remained the bone of contention while the itinerary for the historic tour was being drawn.

The exemplary Karachi crowd which was magnanimous in cheering the Indians and gracious in accepting the defeat of the home side reminded one of the sporting Chennai crowd which gave a standing ovation to Wasim Akram and his boys when they beat India the last time they toured the country in 1999.

However, India can't afford to be complacent as there are still grey areas. If Pakistan offered them the luxury of plenty of extra balls, India were not lagging behind in the number of wides and no balls delivered. India has to be careful in this area as this had spelt doom for them in the VB Series in Australia.

The gains of the match however outnumber the losses. The dashing Virender Sehwag was at his best, marauding the Pakistanis with utter disdain. And the ever-reliable Indian vice-captain too was in his elements both in front as well as behind the stumps. Add to it the flashes of brilliance from the little master and the captain himself. Ashish Nehra seems to have exorcised the ghost of Chetan Sharma's last over in Sharjah. And last, but not the least, Mohammed Kaif, whose stunning catch turned the tide in India's favour.

Pakistan will be like wounded tigers when they take the field at Rawalpindi. Inzamam, who played a captain's knock (though in vain), will be looking for an improved performance from his team. It may not be a surprise if the dashing all-rounder Shahid Afridi is brought back.

Resumption of Indo-Pak cricket made everyone happy, a fact acknowledged by even ICC president Ehsan Mani. The fact that they dwarf even the traditional Ashes clashes as well as the trans-Tasman rivalry was underlined by the Karachi humdinger. Cricket was the ultimate winner here.

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