Pak media hails the 'best Indian team ever'

Published: Friday, April 2, 2004, 18:50 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistan's media put aside the prevailing sombre mood over India's maiden cricket Test win on its soil to hail the archrivals as the "best Indian team ever."

Lambasting the home side following India's innings and 52-run victory in the first Test at Multan on Thursday, the media unanimously declared Rahul Dravid's men a better team.

"This is without doubt the best Indian team ever," Pakistan's best-known cricket commentator Omar Kureishi wrote in the 'Dawn' newspaper.

"This is a team that has come with a mission. It is not distracted, it remains focussed. We were lulled into believing we had the edge over them with our bowling."

In previous tours of Pakistan between 1954 and 1989, India had lost five Tests and drew the remaining 15, prompting claims of a "mental block" when playing against the Pakistanis.

That India won in Multan without regular captain Sourav Ganguly and strike bowlers, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and briefly Zaheer Khan, did not go unnoticed.

Stand-in captain Dravid "was his own man," declared Kureishi. "He provided the kind of leadership that moves mountains. He got the respect of teammates, a sign that the players are loyal to Team India and not to individuals."

Dravid will lead India again in the second Test, starting at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on Monday, a match Pakistan must win to stay in contention for winning the three-Test series.

To achieve that, Kureishi noted, Pakistan needed "a huge leap of faith."

"An innings defeat carries its own stigma," he wrote.

"It riles me and angers me when a team goes down without a semblance of a fight. One cannot even give the excuse that our players are tired. The Indians came to Pakistan after their hectic tour of Australia. They are the ones who should be tired. If the Pakistani players are tired, it must be from boredom, not from playing."

The performance of India's rookie left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan, who took a career-best 4-100 in the first innings and 2-26 in the second in only his third Test, drew much attention.

A report in the 'Nation' newspaper said the 19-year-old, who belonged to "India's strife-stricken, barbarically anti-Muslim state of Gujarat" had received tips from former Pakistani great Wasim Akram.

The paper lambasted home coach Javed Miandad's widely-publicised statement before the tour began that bowlers like Pathan were to be found in every nook and corner of Pakistan.

"One wants to know from Miandad if he had now formed a different opinion of Pathan," it said.

"One wishes Miandad had brought about one-tenth of the improvement in the Pakistani team which, according to him, Akram had imparted in his brief meetings with Pathan."

Former Pakistani leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, speaking on state-run television, said Inzamam-ul-Haq's home team had committed a "sin" and "crime" by the way they played against India.

"The Indians deserved to win, but Pakistan is a much better team than what the result suggests," Qadir said.

Kureishi urged Pakistan to "work out how they can get out of the deep hole that they have dug up for themselves.

"The team should see the Multan Test as a wake-up call and not as a tolling of bells. All is not lost," he wrote.

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