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The series is far from over

April 02, 2004 16:18 IST

Defeated Pakistan team coach Javed Miandad has been as defensive and negative as he was as a captain during his salad days. One of the mistakes he regularly makes is advising youngsters with his own brand of cricket.

After the heavy defeat at Multan, Pakistan will have no option but to go for a green top in Lahore. It is a do-or-die game for them. They need to go for the jugular, opt for the difficult road and hope their fast bowlers, who remain their most potent weapon, come good.

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There is little to choose between the two sides in terms of talent -- for, the batsmen of one side are being neutralized by the bowlers of the other -- but India appear streets ahead in the matter of discipline and perseverance.

The intensity of winners is what Pakistan should aspire to inculcate within themselves quickly, for the time indeed is running out fast. The Indians have taken the observers' breath away with their discipline and planning. They are looking so cohesive and they seem to have done a better job with details of the Pakistan team.

The Pakistan camp of today isn't like the Indian unit, where a Virender Sehwag or a Yuvraj Singh is given a free hand to showcase their talents. No wonder there is a feeling that the unit appears shackled, not its usual self.

One of the reasons for India's excellence in the last couple of years is that nobody acts up like a superstar. Sachin Tendulkar, their senior-most cricketer in international cricket, seems perfectly at ease in the company of youngsters like Irfan Pathan and Laxmipathy Balaji. He is today approaching his job like a 9 to 5 occupation  - batting has become such a routine for him. He remains simply the best.

You can't help but start with Virender Sehwag, for a triple century is not seen everyday in world cricket. It was the innings of his life, though for the purists, and certainly for me, you cannot compare it with VVS Laxman's 281  - or for that matter Sachin Tendulkar's unbeaten 241 in Sydney and the double centuries of Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid.

Sehwag has a very limited defence but he attacks with ferocity and that, in a way, covers up for his flawed technique. He was surely the master blaster of this Test.

I have also been very impressed with Yuvraj Singh. He has the making of a perfect cricketer -- solid batsman, outstanding fielder and a handy bowler. Mark this young lad; he has the makings of a future India captain.

Anil Kumble has been a magnificent performer for India and he continues to draw upon his huge experience to trouble batsmen even on bland pitches. Pakistan's batting, but for Inzamam-ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana, is young and inexperienced and keeping Kumble at bay isn't going to be easy for them.

And then there is Pathan whose rapid strides in international cricket convey that India at last seems to have found genuine fast bowling material.

Yasir Hameed played one good knock but he regularly needs to convert his 60's and 70's into big scores. A youngster can have only so much license about his age. Sooner than later Yasir would have to perform to his potential.

Both the teams made the mistake of going in with a spinner less in the first Test. Saqlain Mushtaq would himself admit he needed to bowl more at the off-stump. Now it would be pace diet only as Pakistan will pull out all stops to beat India. It will not be easy since India appear more hungry, and are definitely more united. They help each other out and it shows nowhere better than in the field.

Well as their bowlers bowled, India will have to depend on their batting to keep their superiority going in this series. This is the time for their batting to stay at the top of their form.

Pakistan will do their best to strike back and hope Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami are able to live up to their hype. In all likelihood, they will get a wicket to their liking, but if the Indian batsmen are able to withstand them, Pakistan will be left with no escape route.

To me, the series is far from over.

Rashid Latif
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