Guarding the guardians

Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 0:00 [IST]
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A critical element of the Lahore Test was the umpiring. I would say that this, more than anything else, took away the match from us.

There were some bad decisions - Imran Farhat looked out on 99 and so did Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana at least twice during their decisive partnership. Our bowlers toiled hard but were clearly hard done by the umpiring. To make matters worse, Parthiv Patel also copped a fine. A cricketer is bound to give vent to his frustration if even clear-cut catches are denied to his team. The least he could do is to appeal and the next thing that happens is that he is hauled up and punished.

The authorities must try to introduce the right element of check and balance on umpires. If a series that has been played in an exemplary spirit is in danger of being ruined by incompetent umpiring, then surely the matter cannot be allowed to go out of hand. Just like the players are accountable, the umpires must take the blame for the wrong decisions and must be punished.

This was a disappointing Test Match for Indian fans after the high at Multan. I am surprised by the failure of our batsmen in both the innings. I don't remember it to have happened in recent memory. The form of our batsmen had been so good in the last year or two, I expected India to have batted for two days in the second innings to save this Test.

India have, in the recent past, squandered leads in Test series abroad -- we have won a Test, and unfortunately followed that up with a defeat in the next Test. Word is doing the rounds that India is an inconsistent team. Even a draw in this Test would have suppressed this growing din.

I don't think the decision to bat first was a bad one. Rahul Dravid couldn't have decided on it all alone, it must have been a team decision. We must remember that despite the green look of the wicket, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami had not been able to swing the ball.

It could well have been a masterpiece of a decision but for one man -- Umar Gul. He got the ball to swing both ways, and his one spell doomed us. It was a kind of spell that could have scuttled any batting line-up in the world.

But Yuvraj Singh showed in this Test that he is ready for Test cricket. He has become an extremely mature batsman and is capable of pulling a team out of a crisis. He is not intimidated by pace and is flexible enough to change his game according to situation.

Yuvraj starts by saving 20-30 runs on the field, can effect a run-out or two and bowl handy left-arm spinners which can break partnerships. I don't think there are many batsmen in this game that hit the ball harder than Yuvraj Singh.

Yuvraj is one of the cleanest strikers in the game today and what is better, he can also defend should the need arise.

And of course, Yuvraj should play the final Test. He is the in-form batsman. I am sure it is going to be tough on someone but the team management would have to make room for Yuvraj in the eleven. This will be a tricky decision for the team management. With the series at stake, I am sure they will choose the best team available.

In the Lahore Test, Rahul Dravid's run out in the second innings was a major turning point. The situation was just right for Rahul to anchor the innings and play out two days, but to get run out without facing a ball is one of the most disappointing ways of getting out.

Sachin and Laxman had an average match, but they are too good to fail again. Had we played well in the second innings and got a lead of around 150, Pakistan would have found it difficult to counter our bowlers in the last two sessions of the Test on a deteriorating pitch.

One cannot help but notice the return of Shoaib Akhtar on the final day of this Test. Shoaib appeared to have sorted out his line and length and bowled an uncomfortable line to batsmen. He seems to be regaining his rhythm, but I am sure the Indians will be ready for him.

Sourav Ganguly will be back to lead the team and the series is hotting up for an exciting climax. One cannot wait for the Rawalpindi Test to happen. History awaits the Indian team, and this is a great opportunity for India to get rid of the "inconsistent" tag.

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