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Rediff.com  » Sports » Tour marks positives for Pakistan

Tour marks positives for Pakistan

By Kunal Pradhan
April 18, 2005 17:05 IST
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Before Pakistan's tour of India started in February, the visitors were staggering from one defeat to another and the hosts were looking to soar to greater heights.

When play ended on Sunday after three Tests and six one-dayers, however, the turnaround could not have been more dramatic.

Pakistan returned home having taken what they say could be their first steps towards excellence. India, on the other hand, have been left pondering their future.

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The three-Test series ended in a 1-1 draw, a moral victory for the visitors with India boasting a much stronger line-up on paper, and the one-day internationals 4-2 in Pakistan's favour after they lost the first two games.

The positives for Pakistan, on their first tour of India in over six years due to political tensions, have far outweighed their own expectations.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who celebrated his 100th Test with a century in the third match in Bangalore, cemented his position as one of Pakistan's greatest ever batsmen.

Coach Bob Woolmer, slammed by the local media after the side's 3-0 drubbing in Australia last year, emerged as the man who can bring method to Pakistan's individualistic madness.

Batsman Younis Khan, who scored 508 runs in the Test series, including a career-best 267 in Bangalore, justified his controversial selection as vice-captain and showed he could have all the ingredients needed to become a future skipper.

When asked why he was addressing the press conference instead if Inzamam before the third one-dayer at Jamshedpur, Younis joked: "I think they're grooming me."

Explosive opener Shahid Afridi, who struck a 26-ball 50 to set up Pakistan's victory in the Bangalore Test, and a 45-ball 100 in the fifth one-day international, cemented his place as an invaluable member of the team with his destructive batting.

SOMETHING GREAT

Seamer Rana Naved claimed 15 wickets in the one-dayers to be named man of the series, and leg spinner Danish Kaneria grabbed 19 in the Test series, the two raising their hands in the absence of the often injured and temperamental paceman Shoaib Akhtar.

"This could be the start of something great. Just look at all that we've gained here," Younis said, summing up the tour.

But for India, things could not have ended on a worse note.

Captain Sourav Ganguly's batting average was an appalling 9.6 in the Tests and 7.75 in the first four one-dayers.

He was booed all the way to the crease by crowds throughout the series and was finally handed a six-match ICC ban for repeated slow over rates during the series.

The skipper's plight was only one of India's worries.

Another, bigger concern was the sudden decline of the bowling attack with left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan, the mainstay of the line-up for the last year, inexplicably failing to swing the ball like he had previously.

Anil Kumble was only at his best in patches and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was weighed down by concerns over the legitimacy of his action.

Opener Virender Sehwag was relentless in his attack on the bowlers but Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Ganguly were all below par throughout the tour.

Added to the woes is the departure of John Wright after more than four years as coach, leaving India in a position from where experts say rebuilding the side is the only option.

Needing to rebound quickly, India are next scheduled to play a triangular one-day tournament in Sri Lanka in August while Pakistan travel to West Indies next month for a two-Test series full of confidence.

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Kunal Pradhan
Source: REUTERS
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