The Demolition Act

India’s ground fielding in the series has consistently been praiseworthy, and the catching was the only sore point, but today even that aspect was excellent. The first three Pakistani wickets were all obtained via great catches that backed up intelligent bowling. With Dhoni also having a good day with three catches behind the stumps Pakistan were bowled out in the 42 over for only 161 runs. India didn’t even have to break a sweat as they coasted to a five wicket win in the 33 over on the back of a sold half century from their skipper Rahul Dravid.

Dravid won the toss and had no hesitation in inserting the opposition. The Pakistani openers were extremely cautious against the new ball, adopting a safety first approach. The first boundary came only in the 6th over. In the 7th over Pathan bowled three full pitched incoming deliveries to Kamran Akmal with the cover fielders helping to make them all dot balls. Dravid then moved the second slip to a short point, and when Pathan bowled one a touch short and slanting away, Akmal couldn’t resist going for the big booming square cut only to find the safe hands of Suresh Raina at short point. The ball was hit fiercely and Raina with superb anticipation moved his hands to his left to take the catch nonchalantly with both hands. It was an incredible reflex catch, and he ran and hugged his delighted captain who had just moved him there. As if that wasn’t enough, Dravid grabbed a sensational one handed catch diving to his left at first slip, to give the impressive Sreesanth only his second wicket of the series. Dravid went at it with both hands and ended up with the ball ensconced in his left hand in front of the vacant second slip. It was an outstanding slip catch. Both the openers were gone, and this time Shoaib Malik couldn’t bail them out of trouble. RP Singh surprised him with a well directed bouncer that Malik topedged in a lame attempt at a pull and Pathan screamed in from square leg to take a diving catch at forward short leg. Three great catches and Pakistan were in strife, but more was to follow as Younis Khan reprised his first ball duck from the Third Test, only this time the bowler was RP Singh who pitched it in line and straightened the ball to catch him plumb in front. Mohammad Yousuf probably couldn’t believe that he had to try and save another hattrick, but luckily this time he succeeded.

RP Singh was in the middle of a dream spell and almost had Yousuf’s wicket too, but the umpire gave him the benefit of the doubt, and it probably was the right decision as there might have been a slight inside edge that the stump microphone picked up and fed to the umpire’s ear phones. The ear phones probably are the best thing the ICC have done for the on field umpires. Inzamam and Yousuf set about rebuilding the Pakistani innings with Inzamam in particular playing some glorious shots of Sreesanth and a below par Ajit Agarkar. The pair added 68 runs in quick time, before Agarkar got one right, it pitched on a perfect length and moved away taking Yousuf’s edge for Dhoni to take a diving catch at second attempt in front of slip. Pakistan were in dire straits and a bowler was subbed out for a batsman, Imran Farhat, who stuck around for some time, without scoring too many before he played an awful looking pull shot to RP Singh and Suresh Raina at mid on had no problems with the catch. RP Singh struck again in the same over with one slanting across Razzaq that bounced more than he expected and got the edge through to Dhoni. Soon Tendulkar claimed Inzamam leg before for 49 well made runs, and the Pakistan tail folded quickly with Pathan claiming the last two wickets and he is the leading wicket taker with three wickets apiece in the last three games.
The Indian chase began poorly with Tendulkar chasing a wide one from Mohammad Sami, but Gautam Gambhir played some rousing shots in the company of the dependable Rahul Dravid. Dravid played wonderfully off his pads, but Gambhir gave it away with an ambitious hook shot to a ball outside the off stump. The comeback man, Sami, had taken 2 wickets, to give Pakistan an outside chance. But, Yuvraj and Dravid took the game away from Pakistan with an 85 run partnership. There were a few stutters when Yuvraj and Kaif fell in quick succession and Sami came back to claim Dravid as his third wicket with a swinging full toss; but Suresh Raina, who was sent ahead of Dhoni, played a sparkling cameo with powerful shots through the offside interspersed with sound defense. India cantered to a five wicket win, and this man Suresh Raina continues to impress. I think he is going to be a vital member of this Indian team soon, and maybe even play a starring role in the 2007 World Cup.

The Indian team has been a revelation in how they have turned things around after the demoralizing loss in the Karachi Test, and Rahul Dravid has tenaciously passed yet another test of his character.


Chase? Hell Yeah!

"We were chasing well so we decided to field." - Rahul Dravid

The team that used to rival the South Africans in choking under pressure has just won it's eleventh successive game while chasing! What a turnaround it has been under Dravid and Chappell. The old warriors in Sachin and Dravid are still around to negotiate the tricky seam movement and Dhoni and Yuvraj are there to provide the ballast to the chase. Yuvraj has seen the Indian team lose from winning positions on several occasions but Dhoni probably doesn't have first hand experience of that sinking feeling, which is reflected in the fearlessness of his batting. Sehwag is another one who bats in this fashion. But the confidence with which Yuvraj and Dhoni completed the chase it seemed like the thought of losing never entered their minds. The prevalent feeling in the team seems to be "Chase? Absolutely, bring it on!"

After a poor start, Pakistan must thank Shoaib Malik for holding the innings together with his brilliantly paced innnings of 108. He was in top form with 2 scores of 90plus in the previous two games and India missed a big one when Gambhir dropped him at slip. The poor bowler to suffer was Sreesanth, who had to endure three dropped catches in his opening spell and one catch that wasn't even attempted in his second spell. But Sreesanth bounded in enthusiastically till the end and was India's best bowler even though he finished with a cruel 0-74. India's slip fielding was pathetic and with Sehwag sent back to rest his injured shoulder they have only one proven slipper in Rahul Dravid. Gambhir has dropped more than he has caught at slip and even the reliable Mohammad Kaif dropped a catch in the unfamiliar position. India really have to develop some more slip catchers in the one dayers, maybe Tendulkar should go back to the slips or maybe Irfan Pathan could do it as he has proved himself to be adept at all other tasks.

For the second game running India went in with 4 fast bowlers and no specialist spinner. The spinners have been mercilessly tonked in this series, and even Tendulkar has resorted to seam up. Irfan Pathan provided the initial breakthroughs as Salman Butt departed for another second ball duck and Afridi skied to cover in another momentary lapse of reason that occurs when he faces Pathan. Several Pakistani's got starts and Kamran Akmal even played his typical cameo innings, but when Inzamam fell to Sachin, half the side were gone by the 28th over. It is only due to Malik's doggedness and the late innings impetus provided by a belligerant Abdul Razzaq that Pakistan managed to reach a lofty 288. It definitely was a match winning score, especially with the new master of seam bowling, Mohammad Asif in Pakistan's bowling attack.

The Indian chase started badly with Gambhir struggling at the top of the order. He was plumb in front to the second ball from Mohammad Asif, but the umpire Asad Rauf gave the batsman the benefit of whatever little doubt he had. Gambhir has shown a tendency to play around his front pad against Sri Lanka where Chaminda Vaas exploited this weakness to the hilt and he continued to do the same here. Although in the end he was a bit unlucky to be bowled behind his legs as the inswinger from Asif was going down the legside and it clipped his pad and rolled onto the leg stump. Gambhir opening doesn’t appear to be a reassuring move. Asif claimed another one quickly as he surprised Pathan with a perfect bouncer that flicked the batsman’s left thumb on the way to the keeper.

Sachin Tendulkar meanwhile was in good touch and opened out with two delightful boundaries to the square boundary. He was very watchful against Asif, judging and leaving several balls and even letting one go on the bounce, over the stumps. But, when he got a loose one he pounced on it and even pulled a short one from outside the off stump for a four. Asif was threatening in every single over, but Umar Gul released some pressure by not sticking to a consistent line. Even though Gul produced some sharp movement off the seam, he strayed on both sides of the wicket. Dravid was lucky to survive a scorcher from Asif that hit the bat and bounced over the stumps. But, the pair managed to survive Asif’s opening spell, with some luck and grit. Tendulkar was lucky that Asif at thirdman didn’t pick up his top edged square cut quickly enough and it sailed over his head for a six. To rub it in, he smashed a wide one from the aggrieved Rana Naved through cover point for a four. Naved then came back to bowl a 140kph leg break to Dravid that pitched on middle and missed the off stump. It was a battle out there with the new ball.

The earlier than normal start to the day nighter, i.e. at 11am, probably is a reason why the Pakistani seamers got so much assistance from the pitch even in the second innings. The early start ostensibly, is to prevent the dew from adversely affecting the side bowling second, but it definitely evens out the odds for the new ball bowlers on both sides. Gul almost struck first ball after the drinks break, but Kamran Akmal dropped Sachin down the leg side. Sachin rubbed it in by pulling and driving for two boundaries in the same over.

Dravid perhaps was encouraged by Umar Gul’s poor collection at midon once before, and he decided to run another quick single but Gul got his second direct hit in two matches and the Indian skipper was well short of the crease. The next man, Yuvraj Singh, was in fine nick and pulled the first short ball he received from Yasir Arafat wide of mid on to get off the mark. His second scoring shot was a stunning stand up and drive shot, wide of mid off. He followed it up with another incredible back foot off drive that raced to the boundary. It was a slightly slower pitch and several batsmen got leading edges, including Yuvraj, but he adjusted quickly to play a beautiful on drive for his fourth boundary. He eased off all the pressure from Sachin, who was suddenly finding it difficult to time the ball. A clearly unfit Shahid Afridi came into bowl, and clutched his ribs after each delivery. Even as Sachin cheekily dabbed him through the vacant slip region for a four, one wondered why Afridi even played this game. Wasn’t he better off resting his freak shower injury?

Sachin is not getting any younger and coupled with the fact that he had bowled ten overs in the Pakistani innings led to the leg cramps affecting him much earlier than was expected. But he hung on gamely and even scrambled for the quick two, as always refusing the services of a runner. Strangely enough the injured Afridi continued bowling while Abdul Razzaq patrolled the outfield and even the hobbling Sachin pulled him away for a four. Razzaq was finally brought into the attack in the 30th over. Sachin’s injury was limiting his front foot movement and he stayed on the backfoot and still found the boundary, whipping Razzaq to square leg. When Asif was brought back to break the bourgeoning fourth wicket partnership, the little master stepped up his game and produced a powerful backfoot off drive that sneaked past a stiff Inzamam. Yuvraj pulled Asif straight back over the bowlers hands to reach a remarkable half century. Sachin was looking for the short ball and had no problem pulling Razzaq for a four and then followed it up with a picture perfect on drive for another four. His eyes must have lit up when he saw a short ball outside off and in his eagerness to smash it, he sliced it straight to point after a superbly compiled 95. The very next over Umar Gul brought one back to trap Mohammad Kaif plumb in front. India had lost 2 quick wickets and Pakistan was back in the game.

Dhoni came in and immediately hit the ball from the meat of the bat. The first few hits found the fielders, but after that he began to find the gaps and he spread the field after 2 smashing hits off Razzaq over mid off for four. Dhoni ran quickly and eased the pressure with 12 runs off the Razzaq over. Pakistan’s ground fielding was pretty shoddy once again, with fielders letting the ball slip through their legs. Immediately after a bowling good over, Yasir Arafat made hash of it at deep square let and let the ball go between his legs for a four. Yuvraj made it a big over off the struggling Rana Naved by hammering a wide one to the point boundary for another four. Dhoni continued the momentum by swivel paddling another ball for an easy four with the fine leg up. Rana Naved capped an awful fielding display by taking his eyes off the ball for a second time as he attacked the ball and conceded an easy two. Dhoni bounded to his fifty in 35 balls in the 44th over which included three consecutive boundaries off the hapless Rana Naved. Asif was brought back for his third spell, and ruined his bowling figures which uptil then were 2-28 of 8 overs and gave away 19 runs in his last 2 overs. He still managed to induce an edge from Yuvraj, but it raced away to the thirdman boundary. Dhoni finished it off with another adventurous pull shot in the 48th over, and he finished on 72 of 46 balls while Yuvraj looked positively sedate with 79 from 87 balls. Dhoni made sure that India won in a canter, but, the match was setup up by an innings of the highest class from Sachin Tendulkar who along with Dravid played out the seaming new ball spells from both Asif and Gul, while still scoring runs at healthy strike rate. Sachin's knock was complemented by a brilliant knock from Yuvraj who scored quickly when Sachin cramped up, and later throttled down when the Dhoni fireworks began. Yuvraj is becoming a rock in the Indian middle order and it is no wonder that he was named the Vice Captain in Sehwag's absence.

Inzamam admitted that Pakistan lost the match because of their fielding, in fact it was woeful. The Indian's dropped three catches but their ground fielding was excellent. Raina, Kaif and Yuvraj in the covers ensure that the Indian's can play with only four full time bowlers. Pakistan cannot hope to improve their fielding overnight, so it looks like it is going to be tough for them in the remaining two matches.


India bounce back emphatically

Irfan Pathan provided the early breakthrough that was missing in the recent past, as Salman Butt attempted an ambitious drive to the second ball of the match which swung and seamed away after pitching. Sreesanth once again bowled with good pace and swing, but remained unlucky. He surprised Yousuf with a well directed bouncer and made good use of the bowling crease, coming wide off the crease to bowl his incoming delivery. Shoaib Malik seems to revel against the Indian bowlers and once again played an attacking innings even as wickets fell at the other end. Kamran Akmal was looking good with some stunning cover drives against the swinging delivery, but he tried to cut a ball that was too close to him and chopped Pathan onto his stumps. When Yousuf had run himself out with his manic running between the wickets Pakistan were in trouble. It became big trouble as Inzamam somehow played too early at a short ball from Zaheer and popped up a simple catch to mid on. Zaheer Khan and Agarkar bowled very well after replacing the opening bowlers. India went in with only 4 frontline bowlers and all were the faster men with Romesh Powar as the super sub. Agarkar bowled a few excellent outswingers that somehow missed the outside edge of both Malik and Younis Khan.

After the controversy over Inzi’s obstruction of field dismissal in the first match, one would think that it couldn’t happen again in the series. But, it almost happened in this match too. Shoaib Malik at the non strikers end scampered down the pitch for a single accompanied by the bowler Zaheer Khan. He was sent back by Younis, and just as Zaheer reached down to pick up the ball, Malik kicked it away. The Indian’s muted their appeal probably because it wasn’t clear whether it was intentional, but after watching the replays it looked as if he plonked his foot on the ball quite unnecessarily. It would have been quite interesting had the Indians appealed.

India didn’t have a fifth bowler, thus when Sehwag and Sachin bowled in tandem the pressure was off Pakistan. Malik & Younis Khan managed to get a boundary almost every over. The only over where Sachin managed to bowl 5 dot balls, off the sixth ball Malik slashed it deep point and ran back for a dangerous second run, but Sreesanth’s throw from the deep was perfectly on top of the stumps and Dhoni had no trouble in whipping the bails off. It was a great piece of fielding and in this department India was much better than Pakistan, who were pretty woeful in the field. Afridi came in and clouted a six as is his wont but threw it away before he could do further damage as he came down the wicket and flung his bat at a short and wide delivery from Pathan. Kaif judged the skier to a nicety. Younis Khan continued his outstanding form in the Test matches as he methodically collected runs interspersed with powerful shots to the square boundary.

India did well to dismiss the big hitters in the Pakistan lower order. Both Agarkar and Zaheer Khan bowled well at the end and coupled with some excellent fielding from the Indians, Suresh Raina in particular who added a run out and a catch to his fielding kitty, made sure that the Pakistanis were all out before the end of 50 overs. In the end 265 was a good score considering that Pakistan were in some strife at 68-4.

Sachin and Sehwag started cautiously giving the utmost respect to Mohammad Asif, until Sehwag exploded in the fifth over. Rana Naved whet his appetite with a short and wide one outside the off stump and Sehwag launched himself off his feet and into the ball, smashing it over the thirdman boundary with such power that he injured his left shoulder. After getting treatment from John Gloster, Sehwag hit three consecutive boundaries and after each shot he grimaced as if to tell the bowler that he could have hit it better if he had two fully functional hands. The first four was ping ponged over the bowlers head, the second was whipped wide of mid on and the third was rocketed through covers. After that he became the hunter and the bowlers were on the defensive. Even as Sachin played Asif cautiously, the Sehwag effect caused an error in Asif’s line and he was flicked to the mid wicket boundary and a wide one was dispatched to the point boundary. Umar Gul started well, beating both Sachin and Sehwag. But, Sehwag immediately sent the very next ball scorching through the covers. It is incredible just how he is able to compartmentalize each delivery. Sourav Ganguly, writing in the Cricinfo magazine provided an interesting insight into Sehwag’s thinking. Ganguly recalled how both of them were watching another batsman at the crease in Australia, and after every slightly loose ball Sehwag would say “Chauka gaya” or “Chakka gaya”, i.e. he missed a four or he missed a six!! It is a pretty simple approach to batting. But, it is not all bang, bang like Afridi, because he started taking singles and Sachin got into the act, lofting Mohammed Asif over mid off and collecting three fours off one Umar Gul over. The opening pair reached their 9th hundred run partnership making 105 from 15 overs when Sachin opened the face off his bat and guided Razzaq into Akmal’s hands.

The flexibility with the batting order in the one dayers has been a consistent feature of the Dravid-Chappell combine, and this time there was no need for the big hitters so Dravid came into bat at number three and eased his way to his 66th half century at strike rate over 90 with only five boundaries. Even when Sehwag was run out by an incredible direct hit from the boundary by Gul, India had no worries as Yuvraj Singh came in and calmly put the match beyond Pakistan. This is where Inzi’s tactics were a bit bizarre as he never brought back his main strike bowler, Mohammad Asif to the attack. All the other bowlers were given a go, and it seemed as if Inzi had already given and up and didn’t want the Indians to score brownie points against Asif. Dravid and Yuvraj added 118 runs before David fell just before the win was achieved, and Mohammad Kaif had to come in to finish off the game. Dhoni, Pathan and the extra bat Suresh Raina weren’t even required as India completed a thumping win.

Dravid will be happy with the win, because his bowlers got him the early break through and his batsmen countered the main threat of Mohammad Asif quite admirably. Suresh Raina in the field pretty much covered the lack of the fifth bowler. Inzamam will be pondering the Sehwag effect and throwing up his hands in frustration at the Pakistan ground fielding which made his bowling attack look even more mediocre than it actually is.


Asif and the Zone

How does one bowler get consistently more seam movement with the new ball than any body else? Ask Mohammad Asif, because nobody else knows the answer. When Asif bowls, the ball invariable lands on the seam, the others are lucky if they get even two out of six deliveries to land on the seam. We have heard about batsmen being in the zone, and this guy has just hit the bowler’s equivalent. He bowled another brilliant spell in the first one dayer at Peshawar, and his match figures of 3-30 on a batting paradise is nothing short of incredible. Gentle loosener; what is that? The first ball he bowled in the match was a ripper and Sehwag had no chance of surviving. It swung in and seamed away. The only way Sehwag could have avoided the edge was if he had dropped the bat. The next man in was Irfan Pathan and he just couldn’t touch the ball as Asif repeatedly beat his bat. In Asif’s second over 5 balls went past the outside edge. Phew, what a bowler!

Mohammad Asif definitely has the wood over the Indian batsmen and if India are to win this one day series they have to either attack him and shred his confidence or take the more sensible option and cautiously play him out like Sachin Tendulkar did. Sehwag will definitely try to attack him, because that is the only way he plays, and it is going to be a great battle between the two for the rest of the series. The left handed Pathan survived, and even shimmied down the pitch and smote Asif over cover. Thus, attack is possible. Asif bowls a more dangerous line to the right hander, so maybe the left handed Suresh Raina, a SuperSub for this game, should be sent up the order?

Irfan Pathan is an allrounder, there is not even a doubt about that any more. His batting was once again feisty and defiant. When the team is in trouble he seems to thrive with the bat and he was certainly pumped up for the occasion. After Pathan's departure Dhoni was sent in to utilize the power plays, and he certainly did. Dhoni's batting has to be watched just for the swagger with which he orchestrates his innings. He started off with a streaky edged four off Razzaq, but by the end of the over he had added three more boundaries. Dhoni continued the assault that Pathan had begun and they both batted around Sachin Tendulkar's methodical accumulation of runs. Sachin’s appetite for the battle hasn’t dimmed a bit as he eased his way to his 39th century and went past 14000 career runs. Staggering numbers! The dichotomy with his performance and India’s performance are mere indications of the fact that the Indian team success has thankfully moved well beyond one man’s role. Sachin was unfortunately declared LBW while reverse sweeping when he had gloved the ball, but the dismissal that really set India back was the LBW dismissal of Rahul Dravid. It was an inswinging yorker from Rana Naved and it looked to have done too much and would have missed leg stump. The batting collapsed after that in the frenetic chase for runs, and India stuttered to 328 all out in the final over.

Sreesanth impressed early on with his pace and late movement but was expensive as he steamed in with the eagerness of a young man making his India-Pak debut. Salman Butt and the in form Kamran Akmal provided Pakistan a rousing start. India pulled things back after Akmal was dismissed, but Shoaib Malik loves the Indian bowling and he waited patiently, accumulating runs with some swift running between the wickets before exploding after reaching his fifty. He destroyed Mural Karthik with 3 huge hits for six and the under pressure left armer began bowling wides outside leg stump when coming around the wicket. Agarkar lost his head trying to bounce Malik and was smashed for three fours in one over. Malik ensured that Pakistan was well ahead of the Indian rate and above the Duckworth/Lewis requirements. India got an unexpected opening with the dismissal of Butt as his tired lofted drive didn’t clear Dravid at cover. Shahid Afridi was sent in to continue the mayhem in his hometown and Malik and he were doing just that before Malik threw it away by clipping Zahir Khan to Dravid at midwicket. Mohammad Kaif’s brilliant fielding got rid of Afridi, and bizzarely enough people began leaving the stadium after Afridi’s run out. They didn’t come to see Pakistan, they came to see their local bomber Shahid Afridi.

Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam were taking the game away from India when he took Dravid’s bait of men in the circle and pulled one to mid on. Dravid knew the game was running away and his smart captaincy brought India back in to the game. He shuffled his bowlers and brought in his fielders to tempt the Pakistani’s. Dravid is a proactive captain if there ever was one, and he pretty much brought India back into the game. Suresh Raina, who was simply outstanding in the field, saving at least 15 runs, at mid off spotted Inzamam trotting out of his crease, and quickly lobbed the ball back to stumps and Inzamam in his moment of clarity knocked the ball back with a classical backfoot off drive. The Indians appealed and of course Inzi was out obstructing the field, because he was way outside the crease. Inzi immediately protested to the umpires because in the last series against England he had been wrongly adjudged run out when he had tried to avoid the ball, so this time he felt he did the right thing by knocking the ball away. What was even more bizarre was at the post match interview he huffed and puffed and said that he doesn’t understand the laws. The Pakistan captain doesn’t understand the laws, even after going back to the dressing room and coming out after the match was over!! Probably everybody stayed clear of the fuming gentle giant of Pakistan cricket.

The light was fading fast and Dravid resorted to spinners so that umpires would let the play go on. Only Younis Khan and the tail was left, when the umpires finally offered the light to the batsmen and they gladly accepted knowing that they were ahead of India on the D/L scale. It was an unfortunate end to the match, but it probably was the correct result as Pakistan deserved to win the match.

Dravid will be left pondering his toothless bowling attack and how to counter Mohammad Asif, while Inzi will be studying MCC’s Laws of Cricket, the Spirit part he has already got down pat. It promises to be an enthralling series.


Dravid's Test

A Test Match is a game played over five days because it is a comprehensive test of your abilities and your character. This loss will surely test Rahul Dravid. The Indian captain has just seen his side lose a Test match after having the opposition on the mat at 39-6 on the first day of the match. How did it happen? That is what he will be asking himself.

I believe we lost the game because of a lack of planning and failure in vision. The previous two flat tracks had convinced the Indian team that there was no need for specialist openers when the stand in openers, Sehwag and Dravid were doing such a wonderful job. The most incredible part of it all was that in India's first innings it was VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid who opened the innings. Sehwag had an upset tummy and was off the field at the end of Pakistan's first innings. It really was bad timing on Sehwag’s part, but if the man had to go, then he had to go. Anyway, it wasn't Laxman who went first, it was Dravid. He got a 'jaffa' from Mohammad Asif that seamed away and took his outside edge. One can't really blame Dravid for that because most batsmen would have nicked it. But, it seemed like India was sacrificing its best batsmen in order to accommodate Ganguly in the team. This impression was reinforced when in the second innings Dravid pushed his bat at a delivery from Akhtar that he should have left well alone. It is only then that you realize that Rahul Dravid opening the batting is not a solution. It is a brave move by the captain, but it still doesn’t make it the right one. He batted for only 4 overs in the whole game!

Sehwag didn’t look like he had completely recovered from the food poisoning episode in the first innings and he showed that he had no stomach for the fight. He lasted only 4 balls. Sehwag’s batting average in the second innings is a meager 22.91 with no centuries, and he failed again, getting embarrassingly cleaned up by Asif. His first innings contributions have set up so many wins for India that one can excuse his second innings frailties, but this definitely is something he can rectify if he puts his mind to it. Laxman still hasn’t rectified his propensity to get bowled through the gate and he did that twice in this match. Quite a few people are getting worked up over Tendulkar failures, but one shouldn’t be writing his epitaph yet. He looked good in the second innings and even nonchalantly slapped away a fast bouncer from Shoaib. He was undone by one that kept low and went right underneath his bat; he had covered the line but not the height. Yuvraj Singh was the only one who emerged with his reputation enhanced in both innings and he proved why he deserves to be picked in the Test XI with another century on a seaming wicket in Pakistan.

The bowler of the series was Mohammad Asif. He bowled an incredible line and always at a sharp pace. He scuttled India just as Umar Gul had done in the previous tour. But, the more one watched the right arm bowler bring the ball back into the batsmen, the more one felt that India should never go into a Test match with three left arm fast bowlers. Another lesson learned is that Dravid shouldn’t open and neither should Sourav Ganguly. India should have a regular opener, Wasim Jaffer in this case, to partner Sehwag. That doesn’t leave a place for Ganguly in the XI, and that is being harsh on the man who tried real hard and played two fighting innings in this Test match. But, after surviving the torrid spells from Shoaib and seeing off the newer ball, he top edged a clumsy hook shot off Abdul Razzaq, just when he was looking good for a big score. We have seen it so many times before, and it still is a terrible shot. He should follow in Steve Waugh’s footsteps and avoid that shot altogether.

Of course, I have the advantage of saying all this in hindsight, but one should learn from the mistakes made. Will Dravid be able to make changes and not only make brave decisions, but also make tough decisions? That will be his Test. We should be able to glean something from the way the Indian team responds to him for the one day series.