Rahul Dravid is a mobile coaching clinic

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2004, 17:11 [IST]
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It makes me laugh when people suggest Shoaib Akhtar should have been in the field when India was piling up a massive score on the third day of the Rawalpindi Test. He should have tested himself out for an over or two is the popular refrain. Who are they to know he never checked himself out? He must have done so in the nets prior to the day's play and found out he wasn't in any condition to bowl as only few can in international cricket.

Please also do not pick him for laying his bat about in the final moments of Pakistan innings. A physical situation can improve over an extra night's rest. No cricketer would hold himself back when the opposition is tightening the screws on a match. I also must clarify he never told me Inzamam-ul-Haq was not giving him the field he wanted. Some imaginative writer has been working on it. At the end of it all, the startling truth has been the failure of Pakistan fast bowlers to subdue the famed Indian batting line-up. Shoaib tried all through to get his outswinger going but could not summon it. Mohammed Sami was nowhere his best and suffered from a fault in his bowling action.

Sami is a different force when he is able to bowl his outswingers. But in this series most of the time his deliveries, instead of leaving the batsmen, were going on to their pads and were easy pickings. He also had the rough of a few decisions and catches dropped piled on his agony.

How we wanted Umar Gul to be available in the final Test. He did in Lahore what Indian bowlers did throughout the series -- bowl from stump to stump at a good length and allow the ball to move.

Pakistan bowlers could not get the reverse swing they wanted and as I had said before the series began, Indians were too adept to fall to reverse swing alone. Pakistan should have picked Abdul Rauf at some stage of the series. He is cast in Gul mould and has picked wickets by dozens in the domestic competition. Indian bowlers, hitherto believed to be the weak link, also bowled out of their skin. Laxmipathy Balaji was splendid in the final Test and Irfan Pathan throughout the series. They stuck to a line within the stumps. Pakistan batsmen would do well to take a leaf out of the remarkable Indians.

Rahul Dravid is a mobile coaching clinic. You just have to watch and imbibe his technique. Pakistan were on a roll at the fall of first wicket but he just blunted them and was rock solid. I have also begun to come round to the thinking it is wrong for critics to pick on Virender Sehwag or VVS Laxman for their technical deficiency. All the Indian batsmen have a remarkable body balance at the point of executing strokes. It gives them control.

Indians finally appear to have a good combination. It has been together for the last two or three years and it is now settled. Pakistan did not have batsmen who could match them. They did not show the maturity required at this level. Even Yousuf Youhana was nowhere near his best in the series.

Pakistan erred greatly by not recalling Younis Khan. He has five centuries from 15 Tests and could have steadied the innings. Young Asim Kamal showed if you have the proper technique, this Indian attack could have been mastered.

Most of the Pakistan batsmen were falling over and playing away from their body. They looked worse in the second innings but then it is understandable. After fielding for two days in the sun, it is difficult for openers to get their feet going. They needed a better footwork to survive the moving new ball.

Still, it is not as if the sun has set on Pakistan cricket. We have always been blessed with exceptional talent and we don't lack them even today. But we need proper people to run it. The chairman of our Board is weak and so is the case with the coach and manager. Inzamam should back his young team and help them become the cricketers the country needs.

Shoaib's form the cream for Pak

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