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Rashid Latif

Laxman should not play in one-dayers

March 20, 2004

Most feel Pakistan is looking more positive than India at this stage. The reason is obvious -- as we play more and more against India, the players have lesser pressure. That is why we do badly against India in World Cup because we only seem to remember our defeats to them in the World Cups. These are negative strains. As the matches become regular, Pakistan tend to dominate as it happens in Sharjah. Pakistan is a 'lambi race ka ghoda' in the context of the two teams.

What Pakistan did in this game was to expose Indian batting. I do not think Laxman should be playing one-day game. Instead, they should have played an extra bowler.

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They need to rearrange their batting line-up. Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif need to come up the order. Kaif is not the sort of batsman who can slog bowlers in the end overs. His technique is good and he needs to bat in the first 15 overs. India now has good sloggers in Ramesh Powar, Laxmipathy Balaji and Irfan Pathan down the order. They can bring more organised batsmen top the order. Not that Pakistan is not doing the same mistake, Shoaib Malik, with a better technique, is not suited for slog overs of an innings.

Most of us must have been surprised to see Shoaib Akhtar taken off the attack when Sourav Ganguly walked into the middle. It is because Shoaib gets exhausted after four overs. Some were also shocked to see him coming around the wicket to Balaji. But his intention was not to hurt the tail-ender. It was to cut down on the angle so that his edges did not run down to third man for fours. He did the same against Chris Cairns of New Zealand in Sri Lanka a few seasons ago. He did not mean to hit Balaji.

Indeed, Shoaib and others should have done the same to Ganguly. He should not have been afforded that room on the off-stump, the fast bowlers should have come round the wicket to him.

The Indians ran into Shabbir Ahmed in this game and it was only expected. Indians struggle on wickets which have bounce and Shabbir, with his height and high arm action, was able to get good lift from the pitch. Indians are very good when the ball is swinging or the wickets are flat -- but when it bounces, it is a different tale. Shabbir has a better Test and ODI record than either Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammed Sami. He is truly a world class bowler in the making.

Indians were able to put up a good total on the board finally. But Yasir Hameed put them on the backfoot with his sparkling play. I do not think any batsman on either side can hit cover drives with so much of elan as Yasir does. If Zaheer Abbas was the Asian Bradman, Yasir has it in him to be Pakistan's Tendulkar. But Indians did not bowl him the right line. They also needed an extra fielder on the off side to curb him.

I was also surprised to see Indians take off the slip fielders when Shoaib Malik was dismissed. Yasir straightaway was relieved to see a ball fly through the vacant slips.  Indians were trying to curb scoring whereas they should have been aiming to get Pakistan out.

Ganguly really needs to fire for his team now. As the wickets kept falling and fast bowlers looked menacing, he kept pushing himself down the order. You do not send right message to your team with this attitude. It would affect the team.

Captaincy is all about leading from the front. At present the Indians look down whereas Pakistan appear like a hound which has tasted blood.

On a finishing note, the umpiring was a bit dodgy in this game. Ramesh Powar and Inzamam-ul Haq could feel done in by poor judgement of the umpires. Yasir though was lucky with a leg-before shout against him.

Imran Khan said his man-of-the-match was Yasir Hameed. My choice would have been Abdul Razzaq. This man proves his worth with the bat or ball in every second or third match he plays. His runs were critical and when Indians were batting, he got Ganguly out when the Indian captain looked set for a century.

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