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India's batting holds the key

Faisal Shariff in Lahore | March 23, 2004 23:30 IST

Defense is for times of insufficiency; attack is for times of surplus.

These words of wisdom from Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' could well be the strategy for the Indian team when it takes on Pakistan in the deciding One-Day International of the five-match series in Lahore on Wednesday.

Still trying to find their feet, India's bowlers will have to be disciplined rather than attacking to pick wickets. Let's not forget that in the two matches India won, at Karachi and Lahore, it failed to bowl out Pakistan.

But it is the batting that holds the key for India. An attacking parade could well make the difference between bat and ball.

Pakistan's batting has also been remarkable in the series, but, as its coach, Javed Miandad, rightly pointed out, no one is giving his batsmen any credit.

Despite the not-too-good showing of Younis Khan (46, 28, 18, 36 in the first four matches), who has yet to score a hundred in one-dayers after four years in international cricket, and all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who has scored just 52 runs in four outings in the ongoing series, the Pakistani batting has fired in every game.

Irfan Pathan, who was dropped for the first two games of the series, broke back into the side with two impressive performances that stopped Pakistan from getting away to flying starts. Interestingly, on both occasions, Pathan snapped up Shahid Afridi, the wild card who can turn even contests into one-sided affairs with his bat.

Pakistani vice-captain Yousuf Youhana pointed out that if Afridi can stay for ten overs, Pakistan will be through. On both occasions, Afridi's failure brought Youhana early to the crease. The result, a paltry return of 11 runs from the latter in the last two games.

Pathan said the Peshawar and Lahore one-dayers were his first outings in the subcontinent and his exclusion from the first two games of the series only made him hungrier.

"I definitely have more control now but I will never give up on my aggression," he said.


Meanwhile, the verbal bouncers between the two sides continued, with Miandad pointing to the choker's tag hanging from the Indian team excess baggage.

"I'm hoping they choke against us again. But they are a strong team," he said.

India's Deputy general Rahul Dravid countered Miandad with a telling statistic. He admitted that the Indian team had not played to its potential in previous finals but asked how many times did Pakistan make as many finals.

Dravid also said that in the last couple of finals India lost only to Australia and have a better record playing against Pakistan in crunch situations.

As someone who has learnt to improvise in the abridged version of the game, Dravid is equally adept at turning weaknesses into opportunities to earn brownie points.

Asked why Zaheer Khan was bowling first change instead of kicking off the innings, Dravid, instead of admitting that the left-armer is short on confidence and unable to control the new ball, said it was a tactical ploy that he did now wish to disclose.

Defending Sachin Tendulkar's failures in crunch games, he said the 'little master' is a high-profile member of the team and his failures get highlighted more than the others.


Inzamam-ul Haq might wish that his luck with the toss carries over to his success rate as a captain. Having won all four tosses of the series so far, he has failed to convert all of them into victories.

Shoaib Akhtar said that instead of a 2-2 scoreline, Pakistan should have been 4-0 going into the fifth game of the series.

Ganguly though might not worry too much about the toss. Dravid said as much when he admitted that none of the captains would be disappointed to lose the toss.

Former Pakistani pace bowler Ata-ur Rahman though believes that the side that wins the toss will dictate terms in the match. He said batting first on the Lahore wicket will be the difference. Unlike Dravid, who said the dew could pose problems, Rahman said batting in the second innings will be easier said than done.

A Pakistani player cut through the various strategies and mentioned that the team that bowls fewer no-balls and wides will grab the twisted Samsung Cup on Thursday night.

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