February 19, 2006

Pakistan seeks consolation win

Osman Samiuddin writes on the atmosphere before the final one day international and the pressure felt by Pakistan team in general and Inzamam in particular.

Much of the pressure, for Inzamam at least, has come from the electronic media with a plethora of ex-players and coaches questioning, in particular, the Pakistan batting order. Three top-order collapses in Rawalpindi (68 for four), Lahore (82 for four) and Multan (29 for four) have effectively sealed the home side’s fate. The criticism has centred on using Kamran Akmal as opener and Shoaib Malik at one-down and pushing the established trinity of Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, lower down. As nonchalantly as he does to some bowlers, Inzamam swatted this away.

“So many people on so many channels are offering their advice, who can I listen to? Basically, we’ve played well over the last 15 months and our batting order, a similar one, has done well throughout that period. Sometimes the batting clicks and we must accept, sometimes it will fail.”

Defeat also brings with it some honesty. Having persistently denied that the toss held any significance for four matches, all of which were won by the side batting second (if not winning the toss), Inzamam agreed belatedly that the toss had indeed been important through out the series. “The toss was vital in previous matches, especially the last three. Their bowlers have taken advantage of the early morning help on these pitches. We are good at chasing but that is also dependant on the wicket.”

At the end of it all, however, the fact that India has outperformed Pakistan demands acknowledgement. Their bowlers have bowled tighter lengths and lines, their batsmen have been more robust and clinical, their fielders more alert and their captain more innovative. Inzamam accepted it. “In ODI cricket it’s difficult to speak of form but India have outclassed us through this series. They have played good cricket in all the matches and the credit for winning the series is ultimately theirs.”

Pakistan are likely to put into use their rotation policy for tomorrow’s game, but not quite in the way they envisaged it before this series began. The captain himself, with troubles of the back still fresh, might opt out and it’s not unlikely that one or two of the bowlers are given a rest. Inzamam smiled about plans, pre-series, for rotation and rest: “It would have happened definitely at some point had we won the series. There are likely to be two to three changes for tomorrow but we haven’t decided on the composition just yet.”

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