Everyone has criticised Inzamam-ul Haq for his decision to field first, including Imran Khan. But I feel it was a tremendous call. Pakistan reckoned their fast bowlers would be able to take early wickets and dent the famed Indian batting.
They were also proved right on the hindsight, since they now know that they would be able to chase any set target later in the day against a weak Indian bowling attack.
That it did not happen was because our spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami were off target. They over-stepped, bowled wides and generally experimented on either side of the wicket. I spoke to Shoaib and Sami before the start of the game and they said they were going to try their best.
The pressure and the hype of last one month, however, got to them. They desperately wanted to do well, they went to bed thinking about it and the negative thoughts came out in the open. But the pressure was easing as the innings progressed and I am sure you would see a different Shoaib and Sami in the next game.
Shoaib did not bowl as many no-balls as he did bowl wides. The reverse was true with Sami and to a large extent with Naved-ul Hasan. Shoaib, if you look at his career, does not bowl many no-balls. The same was true with Waqar Younis. Shoaib bowled wides but then it is difficult to control it with the white ball. Unfortunately, one of his no-balls deprived him of Sachin Tendulkar's wicket.
The early moisture on the wicket was also making the ball swing generously. Even Imran Khan, during the 1985 mini World Cup (World Series Cricket in Australia), bowled five or six no-balls in an over. However experienced the bowler maybe, a new ball is a difficult proposition. Shoaib bowled better with the old ball but it was right to give him the new ball to handle. He is our spearhead.
I think Shoaib would need to cut down on his pace in the next match. He did not bowl at his top speed in Karachi, neither does he need to do it in the next game. Like Waqar, he should concentrate on his outswingers.
Against Virender Sehwag, though, Shoaib and Sami need to bring it in all the time. They must do the same to Sachin Tendulkar as well. They should make both the batsmen come forward at all times. Indians did better homework in this regard. Yasir Hameed was claimed with an incoming delivery and Imran Farhat with an outgoing one, both having been made to come forward.
Naved has a similar problem. He used to play for the same unit as I do -- Allied Bank -- and he has suffered with this problem for a while now.
I firmly believe Pakistan need a bowling coach. Javed Miandad is doing his best as the coach but he cannot concentrate on everything. He is very good with his batting tips and fielding drills. He also needs to plan strategies and tactics but he cannot do everything.
I was very surprised by the way Pakistan fielded. It must be pressure for they are a very improved fielding side. Even Shoaib Malik, normally an excellent fielder, dropped a catch. Indians in comparison fielded better but they too conceded three runs at times. It must be pressure, as I said.
There is a feeling that Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif batted slowly in the 30-40 overs but I compliment them. One must remember the two came together in the 31st over. Another wicket at that stage and India would have been down to their tails. They batted brilliantly and I would think Kaif's catch in the penultimate over was the turning point of the match.
Inzamam-ul Haq also played an outstanding knock. I feel he would be a thorn in India's flesh for the rest of the series.
Sachin Tendulkar gave India an important start but even he looked tense to me. It is amazing players with a vast experience like Tendulkar too could come under pressure. The same it was with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis who felt pressure before an international game.
Indeed Wasim used to often wonder how come youngsters look so relaxed whereas they who have played for dozen years could get excited. I guess it is the pressure to maintain their high standards which exacts pressure on top batsmen.
Better luck next time, Pakistan!
- Moin is the brain of the Pakistani unit
- Less pressure when you are touring