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Unique first game: Wright

Faisal Shariff in Rawalpindi | March 15, 2004 15:56 IST

It's a bad time to be a bowler.

The Indian bowlers were supposed to struggle in Pakistan, but a hundred overs into the ongoing series and it is the Pakistani bowlers who seem to be struggling.

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At the Pindi stadium on Sunday evening, Pakistani coach Javed Miandad had a measuring tape out on the wicket to drive home his point.

"Yahan pitch kare ball [pitch the ball here]," he urged his bowlers.

According to a close confidant of Miandad, the coach believes it was Moin Khan who cost Pakistan the opening match of the series and not the bowlers.

Miandad, as was evident from what one saw on television, was asking Moin to move to the leg-side and manoeuvre the ball past point and gully for a boundary. But Moin was eyeing the vacant spot on the leg-side to slog sweep the ball for a six.

"Moin is out of form. Had this been two years ago he would have finished of the game for Pakistan with probably a ball or two to spare," reveals a teammate.

To lose after requiring just nine runs in the final over with three wickets in hand is surely something you don't expect from a top class international side.

Pakistan team manager Haroon Rashid believes the Pakistani opening pair of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami were a bit over eager and bowled too many extras that reflected in the final result.

Thirty-eight extras proved a bit too much for the Pakistanis though Inzamam-ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana breathed life back into what would have been a heavy defeat for Pakistan.

For India coach John Wright, the Karachi one-dayer was too close for comfort.

"It was an excellent batting performance and there is a mix of delight and relief," he said at the optional nets for the Indian team at the Pindi cricket stadium.

Wright admits that "there are (read lots) things that need to be looked into in the bowling department".

"I thought we began the first 15 overs very well. Our fast bowlers stuck to their plans and did a great job," he said.

But between the 20th and 40th over runs came at a fair clip, and Wright believes that it is important to plug runs during that period for the next games.

"In Australia it was the other way around. The runs would flow in the first 15 overs; here it is the other way around. But we need to get better and take the next step. We can rely on the fact that our performance with the bat is pleasing. Pakistan is a great place to bat," he joked.

Wright said Ashish Nehra's last over was "exceptional". That one word sums up the entire effort.

At the post match conference, skipper Sourav Ganguly said Nehra proved himself and showed what experience can do in crunch situations.

Before leaving for Pakistan, Nehra had told this correspondent that fitness would be the only factor that could upset his rhythm.

"Batsmen or conditions don't really matter to me. If I am even 80 per cent fit, I am confident of picking wickets," he had said.

But Nehra's excellent showing does not shut the door on Irfan Pathan, who was dropped from the starting eleven for the Karachi one-dayer.

"I have very high regard for Irfan Pathan. He is tailor-made for these encounters. He's young and has loads of determination and he can really get stuck into the opposition. He will have some chance in the series as it progresses," said Wright.

Wright said the biggest positive from the game was the fact that the nerves have now gone out of the players.

"To be calm is very important. Passion must always be directed. You look for calmness and you can handle pressure well.

"It will be a very close series. The Pindi game will be key for both sides. The first game was unique. I think the intensity is special for all involved.

"Playing in Pakistan is special. We are here to enjoy the experience, to embrace it. Enjoyment is proportional to the result," he said.

Wright also expressed optimism about VVS Laxman returning for the next game.

"We are anticipating that VVS will be ready. Batting is not the problem but his fielding is. We will have a look tomorrow."

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