India basks in glory, Pak looks for excuses

Published: Sunday, April 4, 2004, 16:31 [IST]
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Lahore:If Pakistan do not secure a series-levelling win in the second Test against India, blame it on politicians, Englishmen, umpires, bookies and the Indians themselves.

Or that is what one is being led to believe.

The reaction after India clinched the One-day series 3-2 and won their maiden Test on Pakistan soil last week has been so extreme that few are willing to predict the fall-out of another defeat.

Everyone, from political parties and retired army generals to cricket administrators, has an opinion why Pakistan has been unable to thrash India as it did in the past.

And not all of it has to do with the action on the field.

The influential Islamic Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance last week alleged that the cricket defeat was a "goodwill gesture" from President Pervez Musharraf to help Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee win the upcoming Parliamentary polls.

Foreign office spokesman Masood Khan was forced to issue an official denial on Saturday, saying "winning or losing at cricket was not part of the confidence-building measures" being undertaken by the respective Governments.

Retired army general Javed Nasir, writing in Sunday's edition of the Lahore-based 'Nation' newspaper, pointed fingers at Engish curator Andy Atkinson, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the selectors and the umpires for the defeat in the Multan Test.

"The world at large does not know the facts and truth about our defeat," the general began, arguing that Atkinson prepared a dead pitch which "nullified" Pakistan's renowned pace bowling weapon.

"Atkinson produced wickets of India's choice, he should be paid his fees and sent home immediately," Nasir wrote.

"Neither (chief selector Wasim) Bari selected the best squad, or (captain) Inzamam-ul-Haq picked the best 11 out of it.

"Our best batsmen who were set for big scores were given out as a bonus prize to the Indians to ensure our defeat.

"If the PCB chairman (Shaharyar Khan) and the management had even an iota of self-respect, honour and dignity, they should all resign en masse."

The retired general even suggested how Shoaib Akhtar and company should bowl to the Indians.

"They must avoid over-pitched deliveries when bowling yorkers because they could become full tosses," he wrote. "The pace bowlers should use a mix of bouncers and yorkers."

That the Indians have played better cricket so far on their first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years has been acknowledged by Inzamam, team coach Javed Miandad and most commmentators.

But accusations by former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif that the home side may have deliberately under-performed in the One-day series gained such wide publicity that the PCB threatened to take Latif to court.

Even the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not been spared.

PCB chief executive Ramiz Raja said that the hosts wanted to play a Test in Peshawar where the wicket would have suited Pakistan's fast bowlers, but the Indians declined to play there for security reasons.

The Lahore Test from Monday will be a make-or-break game not only in the context of the current series but for many associated with Pakistan cricket as well.

Prior to the current tour, India had never won a One-day series or a Test match on Pakistan soil. Victory or draws in the remaining two Tests in Lahore and Rawalpindi would win the tourists the rubber.

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