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Pathan let his bowling talk

Faisal Shariff in Lahore | March 25, 2004 20:17 IST

The series ended just as it began in Karachi: in a blaze of glory.

If the batsmen provided the sparkle in the first One-Day International, fireworks lit up a foggy Lahore sky as India humbled the hosts in the fifth match to clinch the series 3-2.

For India, it was more than just a series triumph. Even India skipper Sourav Ganguly, who doesn't care too much about the past, couldn't ignore the history involved.

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"We have not won here since 1954. It is great being part of a team that beat Pakistan in a one-day series," said Ganguly at the press conference after Wednesday's deciding ODI.

Cola was sprayed all around the dressing room and over the players. The generally somber coach John Wright hoped around the dressing room overjoyed by the win, and Irfan Pathan was heard rendering the famous Hindi song, 'Meri saamne wali khidki mein'.

The song surely would not have gone down well with those in the adjoining dressing room.

Indeed, joy was ubiquitous. The hundred-odd Indian fans that stayed back for the presentation ceremony sounded like a million.

When asked why the Indians did not take a victory lap around the ground Ganguly replied, "Most of the stands were empty. So what was the point?"

Irfan PathanThere was no room for the bitterness that has enveloped Indo-Pak cricketing ties.

"It is no point lamenting about things in the past that we have no control over," Ganguly added.

He, however, pointed out that over the past two years the Indian team has graduated into a bunch of individuals who never give up.

"I have always said that this is a different side. We have worked very hard on and off the field to improve ourselves."

Singling out Irfan Pathan for special mention, Ganguly said though the young bowler does not have the pace of some of the other fast bowlers on view in the series, "the crucial aspect about him is he delivers".

It seems the jibe was clearly at the Pakistani pace bowlers who struggled for most of the series.

Pathan grabbed the opportunity that came his way following Ashish Nehra's injury and picked eight wickets in three games.

Wickets of Taufeeq Umar, Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan put the task beyond Pakistan in the deciding ODI.

The ploy to use him against Youhana worked yet again in the final game when he had the batsman trapped leg before wicket.

Pathan's comments before the game proved prophetic after he picked three wickets for 32 runs in his 10 overs.

He had told that being excluded from the playing eleven in the first two one-dayers made him hungrier and provided him an opportunity to develop a strategy to get the Pakistani batsmen out.

"Bhookh to badti hai jab nahi khelne milta hai [the hunger increases when one does not get to play]," he said.

"I will keep the same aggression, but I still need to be clear about what areas I have to bowl in and what line I will maintain. Because, if my line goes a bit off I will be taken for runs," he added.

Asked about Pakistan coach Javed Miandad's comments about him before the start of the series, Pathan replied: "I don't think too much about it. Jawab nahi dena hai mujhe mu se, bowling karke jawab doonga [I don't want to say anything; I wan't to answer with my bowling]."

Pointing towards the sky, he said, "Aur upar Allah bhi to hai. Wo jawab dega mere liye [And there's God above, he'll speak for me]."

Miandad might certainly want to go to the streets and gullies of Pakistan to hunt down a few Irfan Pathans.

Looking ahead, Ganguly said he will go into the Test series against Pakistan high on confidence because of the one-day series triumph. He hopes the team will continue the good Test form it displayed in Australia.

With veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar joining the ranks for the Test series, the Indian team can sure go in with the mental edge.

Pakistani skipper Inzamam-ul Haq's statement at the press conference confirmed just that when he admitted that India will have the advantage.

But he also warned that one-day and Test wickets are different and he will influence the preparation of the Test strips.

"Thodi groundsman ki marzi hogi, kuch meri marzi hogi [A little will depend on the groundsman, a little on me too]," he joked.

But that will count for little when a confident Indian bunch takes on a side torn apart with infighting and individualism. Some members of the Pakistan team are still loyal to former skipper Rashid Latif and that has divided the bunch.

After the game, Shoaib Akhtar told that the result of the series should have been decided in the fourth one-dayer itself when Ganguly was dismissed with the score yet to reach three figures.

"When Ganguly was dismissed [in the fourth one-dayer] the match was in our pocket," he said

"We lost games we should have won. I did my job in most of the games. I had to break through the top order and I did just that. I cannot win matches single-handedly.

"Inshallah [By the grace of God], the Test matches will have a different result," he said.

Akhtar, who has high regard for Tendulkar, admitted that the little master still remains his immediate mental block.

"The innings of 141 he played at Rawalpindi would rank higher than the 98 he scored at Centurion in the World Cup last year," Akhtar said.

The series lost, pressure is clearly mounting on Haq and Miandad to deliver in the Tests.

Pakistan bowling legend Imran Khan has called for the appointment of a bowling coach to help the fast bowlers. In fact, he was overheard screaming on the phone that everyone, from the captain, vice-captain, coach and manager, is a batsmen.

"Who will look after the bowlers? How can we give our wickets to 20-year-old rookies like this?"

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan is clearly under pressure to ring in changes. The axe could well be hanging over Miandad's head.

Former Pakistan chairman Gen. Tauqir Zia told that though Miandad is the best man to coach Pakistan he would have to become tech savvy to survive in today's cricket.

"If Javed can get some technical courses he will be the best in the world," said Zia.

With the Test series coming up, there is no doubt that a counter-attack is heading India's way. There will be periods when the batters will face the music from the Pakistan pace battery. But, as of now, the Indians can listen to Wright playing his guitar. And Miandad could do with a crash course on his laptop.

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