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Anil Kumble

Hoping for a fair contest between bat and ball now

March 18, 2004

Now that India and Pakistan have had a good look at each other's strengths and weaknesses and are level in the five-match series, from an Indian perspective, it will be good to start afresh and treat this as a three-match series and look to win the next match. This will put enormous pressure on the hosts as we go to Lahore for the double-header.

After the second one-dayer in the Samsung Cup, honours are even with both teams looking up to their bowlers for some inspirational spells. The pitches so far -- both at Karachi and Rawalpindi -- have been too good for any bowler to make an impact. In fact, one hopes that it will be a fair contest between bat and ball from now on.

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Once again Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag got off to a flier, with the former carrying on to make a fine century, in the process crossing yet another milestone -- 13,000 runs in ODIs. Unfortunately for India, none of the other batsmen were able to support Tendulkar and go on to make a big score, which was the need of the hour.

Firstly, India had to overhaul a huge score; secondly, there had to be one batsman right through the end and that batsman had to be one of the top four.

Both Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh got out to shots timed beautifully but found the fielder in the deep. While the Pakistani bowlers kept getting wickets at regular intervals, the debutant, Ramesh Powar, batted sensibly along with Laxmipathy Balaji at the end to give a glimmer of hope.

In a run chase such as this, it is important to bat the full quota of 50 overs and probably the margin of defeat would have been even smaller had we batted through. Or, maybe, we would have squeezed through with some luck.

Our bowling fell apart in the first 15 overs with Shahid Afridi and Yasir Hameed giving the right kind of start Pakistan was looking for. I had mentioned previously the usage of the short-ball, especially to someone like Afridi, who is certainly uncomfortable early on in his innings. I thought Ashish Nehra bowled a superb line and varied his length effectively. Yuvraj mixed his deliveries and varied his pace to good effect.

So far in this contest, where the lowest score has been 317 runs, it is important for the bowlers to back their abilities and stick to the basic principles of line and length. It is easy to feel disheartened and heed to various theories and advice that come from different quarters but what remains important is to feel good about one's rhythm and keep the thought process simple.

It was nice to read reports about Rahul Dravid, Murali Kartik and some of the other players visiting historical sites. On tour it is very vital to take time off and look at sights of Pakistan. This certainly helps relax the mind to get refreshed. While music is the most sought after option by the players, only a few indulge in venturing out.

Another player joins the 500 club: My congratulations to Muttiah Muralitharan for this outstanding feat. While my colleague Tendulkar will most certainly rewrite batting records, Murali shall ensure that his wicket taking counter will only jump in fives!

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