A hapless Shoaib mirrors Pak plight

Published: Saturday, April 3, 2004, 21:54 [IST]
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It is a make-or-break Test for Pakistan in Lahore. They would like to maximise the potential of their pace battery which is the engine which drives them on a cricket field. But I am not sure if Shoaib Akhtar is up to the task. He does not seem to be the same bowler who used to run through the batting-line ups of New Zealand or Australia in a matter of a few balls. He looks very tired mentally and does not seem to back himself enough against the Indians. He throws up his hands so often while bowling that it betrays a tormented soul.

In retrospect, I feel the toll of One-day series has been immense on Pakistan bowlers. Indians were regularly picking up 300-plus totals in ODIs and Shoaib had more no balls, wides and runs than wickets to show in his bowling column. We are yet to see the best of Shoaib in this series.

Pakistan might require a bowling coach but for the mistakes they are making you do not need an expert to point it out. They all know what went wrong. Also, I am not sure if a bowling coach, in the middle of a series, could be of help.

With bowlers conceding near 700 runs, it is always a tough task for batsmen, even against Bangladesh, leave alone a strong unit like India. As a bowler, you feel liberated with such a bank of runs. You experiment, you attack and in most cases get the help from rival batsmen who cannot help but being cautious.

Indians made early inroads in both Pakistan innings in Multan and Irfan Pathan, who looks a match-winner, was the reason for it.

If you ask me, I will say Virender Sehwag is the main difference in the team of today from the ones we had in the past. He blasts from the word go and helps immensely in rattling up the bowlers. Bowlers can get him out but cannot keep him quiet. His attack of Saqlain Mushtaq on the first and second day was a piece of tactical brilliance.

Saqlain has been a force against India in the past and might have been purposely held back in ODIs to be let loose on Indians in the Tests. But Viru played him brilliantly, smashing him around the park and throwing the Saqlain Factor out of the window for the rest of the series. He has ensured Pakistan attack can at best be only one-dimensional; I cannot see them trusting a spinner with their attack for the rest of the series.

Viru's triple hundred is the stuff of a legend and it was always on cards after he finished the first day on 228 not out. One believes such a score has not been seen from any Test batsman on a single day in the last 54 years. He has said he never felt Pakistan bowlers could get him out; even we the viewers never felt Pakistan bowlers stood any chance against him.

Viru's triple is surely going to motivate the rest of the Indian batsmen further. Such feats tend to motivate the rest. It is not a competition but just a healthy spirit to match your fellow professionals. If a bowler takes five wickets, the one at the other end tries to emulate him. It would be the same with the rest of the Indian batters.

We cannot ignore Anil Kumble. He has been a bowler I have admired for long and one who has been a great help from the other end. It is difficult to count how many matches he has won for India.

When I started, Kumble appeared to be a bowler who would put 12 balls at one spot all the time. Now he has developed a googly. This new armoury automatically slows up his deliveries and injects doubts in the mind of a batsman.

I have always been very happy bowling alongside him for he dries up the runs from one end and allow me to attack the batsmen from the other. He has now bowled another perfect delivery, in the form of a son. Congrats to a fellow spinner and an inspiration whose form in the last few matches has been nothing less than sensational.

Finally, it seems Pakistan would be expecting more than 200 per cent from their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, the only batsman who has the potential to be a thorn in India's flesh. But if he keeps running between the wickets like he did in Multan; holding the bat in the wrong hand, which stopped him from stretching; he would cause his team's destruction.

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