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Javagal Srinath

Dravid played one of his best knocks

March 23, 2004

It has been often seen that a team dishes out its best performance when under great pressure. Unfavourable results not only activate the drives in the minds of the players, but also ignite their self-respect, sense of duty and accountability. I have regularly witnessed embarrassed players spending sleepless nights after a few dismal shows.

This is the best time to gauge and determine a team's actual preparation. At times, the players can't wait to get into the middle and make amends for all the mistakes. There are also players who dread to go there and prefer to stay in the dressing room. No wonder they don't remain a part of the team for too long.

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On Sunday, at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore, I was proud to watch that there was not one single Indian cricketer who belonged to the second lot. Everyone in the team looked fired up to go to the centre not only to level the series, but also to salvage prestige.

Aggression was met with aggression. The Pakistani pace attack was handled extremely well. Pakistan's bowlers are yet to realise that the Indian batsmen cannot be dismissed by sheer intimidation. In fact, our bowlers were initially far more effective under the scorching sun after skipper Ganguly lost the toss.

I was extremely impressed by the kind of teamwork our fast bowlers displayed in the initial 16 overs. Irfan Pathan was probably the most accurate, while Balaji bowled in the right areas. Zaheer, it appears, has improved in the last two games. Playing a regular bowler also worked. It was good to see Murali Kartik bowling well.

Mohammed Kaif was under tremendous pressure to perform. To bat at number seven, that too when required to score runs at a high asking rate, is not the easiest of jobs. He is either required to catch up with a huge run-rate or to set up a big target. Kaif's match-winning knock couldn't have come at a better time. And, mind it, he has other contributions as well. As a fielder, he not only lifts the confidence of the bowlers, but also saves certain scoring shots. His running between the wickets is a treat to watch.

At the other end, Rahul 'The Rock' Dravid played one of the best knocks of his career. And, like Kaif, that was not his only contribution to the team's cause.

Once in the middle, I consider Rahul Dravid as the bowling coach. He may not be too happy to play the role of a wicket-keeper, but the value of his being there is simply immeasurable. Wicket-keepers are always the best judges of the wicket and the batsmen at the crease. Rahul's regular inputs to the bowlers about the line and length to be adapted and what should be their approach to the stumps is very important. Rahul had always helped me in giving me the right insight about my bowling, be it as a keeper or as a fielder in the slips. A keen student of the game, Rahul tries to help the bowlers all the time.

In a way, the initial onslaught launched by Sehwag, Sourav and Yuvraj in the first 20 overs helped to build the platform for Rahul and Kaif to prosper. It is the same approach the Australians take in chasing high scores. The first few batsmen bat aggressively and the batsmen coming later consolidate on the early offence.

Now one last effort is required on Wednesday to clinch the series. The result of winning the one-day series will surely have a bearing on the Test series. Pakistan, playing in their home ground, will have added pressure on them. After all, Indian batting is a real threat to any attack in the world.

Previous column: India suffers from middle overs crisis

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