Surely that’s how everyone must have felt watching the final day of the second test match. But I don’t agree with everyone that it was Lahore Part II. Did we not get some action on Day 3 Session 2 and what about the last day when Pakistan suddenly collapsed to 490 all out? Not enough you say? Well we have been used to such wonderful cricket produced in the last decade that it is but natural that this is one is proving to be a dampener of sorts.
I don’t want to sound too critical but the fact is that the test series touted to better the Ashes rivalry in modern day cricket has so far been plain boring. I never thought that I would say this about India-Pak matches. It feels like we are back in the 80s where India-Pak matches always ended in boring draws, as loss by either side was not acceptable in their respective countries. I thought the picture had changed in the late 90s what with we playing Pak almost every year. The 2004 series and the 2005 series proved that the teams were playing to win. So what changed this time?
How could Pakistan who were riding high on confidence post their bashing of England, get into such a defensive mode? India’s batting line-up is superior no doubt, especially in the sub-continent conditions; but it seems their bowling which is strictly decent seemed to scare the Pakis off. You need to take some calculated risks to win. No risk no return. You can never win a match by batting your way out; who will take the opponent’s wickets?
I thought that Pakistan would make the match a wee bit interesting by giving India a target of 300 to chase at 6 per over; but it seems they are too wary of losing and also of this Indian batting line-up. In fact, I was hoping Rahul would declare some 50 runs short of Pak’s total, have a go at the Pak batsmen, as they were short two batsmen. Neither of the two scenarios happened. There was absolutely no hope for some excitement or to see something innovative!
The nature of these pitches is killing the spirit of test match cricket. To make things worse what we saw on the final day was cruel mockery of this wonderful game. Oh it broke my heart! It was meant to amuse the spectators, bring in some excitement. Was that the idea? Sorry folks that didn’t not go down well with us. Dhoni and Yuvraj bowling with the new ball and later Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi! Please don’t put us through this after the 4 ‘exciting’ days of batting. As I have said before this series refuses to acknowledge that bowlers need a fair game too and I’m not surprised that Shoaib refused to bowl when India stepped out to bat again. Why should he waste his energy in an inconsequential match?
I’d rather have a nail-biting draw where one team is fighting to win the game and the other is fighting even harder to save the match. That kind of a draw is worth savoring. Remember the current Ashes series match 3?
The nature of the pitch is what makes this game interesting. There in comes your skill as a bowler and as a batsman to tackle the variances of the pitch. What would be left in the game if all countries produced the same kind of wickets? Cricket would lose its charm. The most important thing though is that the pitches must give bowlers and batsman a fair chance, prepare a sporting wicket is all we ask.
Allianz the main sponsor of this test series has an advertisement for its insurance products that says will you prepare a fair pitch or not. Take the right decisions in life. What an irony that the PCB does not seem have to have taken any clue from its main sponsor!
Do you think Dravid will rank his two hundreds in this series among his greatest ones? He would rather be pleased with his 27 on a fiery pitch in Durban 1996 or his 148 on a seaming Headingley wicket in 2002. Come on, give the batsman also something to savor about. Even he knows a rank local batsman would have a got a hundred on this kind of pitch and which is why my next target of criticism is the Master Blaster himself!
How could he, oh how could he walk away? First of all how could he not play Akhtar well on this kind of wicket? Agreed he was bowling a fiery spell, but there was nothing in the pitch to get ruffled up. Tendulkar, who has scored hundreds on greener faster tracks, ought to have handled Shoaib well here. The situation demanded it. India needed him to stay on with Dhoni and get some runs; instead he got out for 14! Ughhh it was so damn frustrating and later we see he was technically not out. What did he achieve by his generous attitude? Nothing! This is precisely why I don’t agree to batsmen walking off on their own! There is an umpire there, let him do his job; don’t try to do his job, why don’t you do your job of batting!
Dhoni and Pathan’s counter-attack worked wonders for India what with Bhajji and Zaheer adding their own to see India past the Pakistan total which looked seemingly impossible at one point. The knocks by the lower order also supported the team’s decision to go in with 5 regular bowlers dropping Ganguly. Yes I was surprised they dropped Ganguly (How much more humiliation that man will go through no one knows! Not fair is it? ) and even more surprised that the two openers are still warming their pads in the dressing room! Atleast you could have sent Jaffer back home. Maybe he would have helped Mumbai fight out UP. What a tragic match that was for Mumbai and full Kudos to Kaif’s team. If you don’t intend to take Ganguly in the final match atleast let him enjoy playing the Ranji final!
Another disheartening aspect was the attitude of Pakistani players. Shahid Afridi, he is anyway known for his sledging ways and it is expected of him. Shoaib’s ego and tantrums are well known by now. But the two carried it a wee bit far in this game. Needless and not required. Shoaib was amazing, you bowl a goddamn beamer and don’t even apologize! Dhoni should have given him back there and then. He should not have even bothered to say at the press conference that maybe it slipped! This one surely did not seem to have slipped! The attitude showed by Shoaib is bad for cricket! Inzy take note. Ranjan Madgulle, The ICC referee will let them go with a warning and if it was any Indian player god knows how many suspensions and fines would have honored the Indian team.
On another note it’s a delight to watch Inzy bat, I even like Asif Kamal (wonder where he is) but somehow Younis Khan and Shahid afridi don’t evoke the same emotions in me! At best I think Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan are average batsmen. It’s only our team that allows them to pile up monstrous scores; and yes I know I’m being a real sadist when I tell you that it gave me endless joy to see Younis Khan not get his double centuries in both matches and falling short of it after being so tantalizingly close!
Now the entire pressure is on Karachi. On the groundsmen to come up with a sporting wicket; on Pakistan to win the series and on India to not lose the initiative it has taken. I don’t have much hope from the finale. Karachi is not the luckiest ground for India. We were never keen to play there in the first place and I don’t see things changing much in the last match of the series. Defensive attitude never helps you win a series. Attack they say is the best form of defense and it’s high time both teams realized that!