Centurion: It was a mistake which has almost brought Pakistan's World Cup campaign to a grinding halt and Abdul Razzaq is still counting the cost. Razzaq saw to his horror a lofted drive from Sachin Tendulkar hit his left palm and spill out to the ground and immediately felt the life drain out of him."I immediately realized the big mistake," said Razzaq reflecting on his team's six-wicket defeat to old foes India in the high-voltage World Cup match on Saturday."I was in a daze for it would have given us a good grip on the game," a devastated Razzaq said.
India, 57 for 2 at that stage, would have been hit hard by Tendulkar's loss on 32 for only in the previous over WaqarYounis had hustled out Virender Sehwag and captain Saurav Ganguly off successive balls. Bowler Wasim Akram could not believe his eyes. "Tujhe pata hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai (do you know whose catch you have dropped)?" Akram screamed at Razzaq who wished the ground would open and he would escape the fury of his former captain.Akram was furious as Razzaq had ignored his command to stand at the edge of the circle at mid-off and had come too far inside the ring.
"Tu agar wahan khada hota to aasan catch tha (had you stood there it would have been an easy chance)," thundered Akram at a sheepish Razzaq. Razzaq had his own reasons to come inside the ring. "I know Sachin is very good at placement and wanted to stop those sharply run singles." Razzaq was also aware Tendulkar does not lift a ball straight down the ground so early in his innings.Agreed former Indian Test player Sanjay Manjrekar. "It is very uncharacteristic for Sachin to lift a ball straight down the ground so early in his innings," he said. "But he escaped and India was relieved," Manjrekar added.
Razzaq's lapse could be compared to Herschelle Gibbs' folly of dropping Steve Waugh at a critical stage of the 1999 World Cup which paved the way for Australia's title triumph and buried South Africa in ignominy.Later, Tendulkar rubbed in the salt further and literally brought blood to the wound when he smacked a back drive at Razzaq who split his finger in an attempt to stop the shot.However, he stayed on to bowl a few more overs. Tendulkar, in a matter of one knock, also settled his long-standing accounts against Pakistan cricketers. And Tendulkar did not have to resort to histrionics to have a go against the arch-rivals. His bat did the talking as his fans soaked in the electrical atmosphere.
Indeed, emotions had a field day at Centurion Park. The legendary Akram, his outstanding career coming to an end, was often involved in disagreements with his captain Waqar Younis about the field placements granted to him. He had a particularly long argument with his skipper after Virender Sehwag had spanked a square drive to the cover fence as he sought an extra cover in that area. Akram later also took up the cause of Shahid Afridi who similarly appeared disgusted at Waqar's stubbornness to set a field which he did not want.
Young Indian bowling stars Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra were extremely nervous at bowling at Pakistan batsmen at the start of the match and captain Saurav Ganguly confessed his bowlers were suffering from bouts of nerves."It was a kind of game where not only us but even the opposition was nervous. It took them four or five overs to settle down," Ganguly said.The same was the case with Pakistan with even the usually fiery Shoaib Akhtar requesting Waqar after just one over to remove him from the bowling attack."Shoaib just told me he wasn't feeling well.
He is a key player in our team but he went for runs in the first over and I had no option but to bring myself back," said Waqar.Shoaib was hit for 18 runs in his first over including a screaming square cut for six from the broad blade of Tendulkar who also slammed two more fours in the same over. No sooner did the match end, captain Saurav Ganguly rushed to the ground and hugged Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh for batting till victory was achieved. His relief was palpable as was the delight on the two batsmen's face. PTI