The Samsung Cup got off to a dream start with Pakistan coming within a stroke of creating history. After watching the last match one wonders: What is an ideal score in a One-Day International on a flat deck? Are 350 runs enough? Well, going by recent matches, anything below 280 runs is a stroll of a chase.
It is important that our bowlers come hard at the Pakistani batsmen early on, as this will set the tone of the innings when we bowl. The subtle changes in the bowling by varying pace and by way of using different bowlers in the middle overs will probably help our cause.
The other area of concern would be in the middle overs. The twin blows delivered by Murali Kartik proved crucial to the result and I hope that he rides on this confidence. The Pakistan batsmen use their feet against the spinners well. As the margin of error on these flat decks is minimal, the challenge would be to keep these batsmen glued to their crease as long as it is possible.
For the first time I am witness to empty roads during an Indo-Pak match and the celebrations after an Indian victory. The media reports and the attention the Indian team receives when on tour is massive. The one factor that John Wright kept reiterating on our tour to Australia was to keep these factors out of the mind and focus on the task at hand. This, in fact, would be his main advice when the team gathers around before the next game.
In a high voltage series such as this, the onus on the players will be to recover quickly both physically and mentally from a gruelling game. Credit should go to the Indian physio, Andrew Leipus, and the trainer, Greg King, as ice baths are mandatory in between innings and also at the end of the match. It is with huge reluctance that the players approach the tub filled with ice but at the end of two minutes, one feels refreshed.
Pakistan batsmen must be complimented the way they controlled the run-chase; their skipper Inzamam-ul Haq played one of the best one-day knocks that I have witnessed. The partnerships between Inzy and Youhana and later with Younis Khan kept Pakistan in the hunt. They were probably the favourites until Mohammad Kaif brought off a great catch to dismiss Shoaib Malik.
Ashish Nehra then held his nerve in the final over.
India has the psychological advantage but the one-day series could go to the wire.
Pakistan will rue the early chance given to Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar; also the number of extras which came by way of no-balls and wides. The good start by Sehwag and Tendulkar was critical. Sehwag is a rare talent and his approach to the game is simple: He can only see a boundary written all over when the ball leaves a bowler's hand. He is definitely not the kind I would like to bowl to even in the nets to get my rhythm before any game. The momentum was never lost thereafter. It was disappointing to see Rahul Dravid miss a deserving century by a whisker.
The ability of our batsmen to hit boundaries at will is something unmatched by other teams but what was more pleasing was the way we ran between wickets. The partnerships helped India post an impressive 349 runs but one might feel we could have scored a few more after the start we had.
In another contest going on in our neighbourhood, two spinners are vying for honours to occupy the No. 1 slot in Test cricket. My hearty congratulations to a fellow leggie Shane Warne on reaching the magical 500 wickets in a fashion only a champion could.
What a statement he has made in his comeback game!