Rawalpindi Express performed far below his best in Kolkata but he will have to lead the attack in the Bangalore Test
The Kolkata Test was an example of how Test wickets must not be prepared at a time when the game’s most traditional form is being threatened by the more result-oriented one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket.
The wicket did not aid pace bowling at the start, and as the Test drew to a close, it was clear that it was not assisting the spinners either. The game was a throwback to our times when teams played Test cricket with the primary aim of not losing, and victory was a mere bonus.
That said, I am sure that the Indians still feel that they should have won this game, especially when they had Pakistan on the mat at 150 for 5, and even on the last day when the visitors were 88 for 4.
I was a little disappointed with the way Harbhajan Singh bowled in the second innings. Admittedly, the ball was turning slowly, but he could have bowled an outside the off-stump line, rather than on off and middle. Harbhajan has been magical at the Eden Gardens in the past, but then, it would have been hard for any spinner to extract vicious turn from such a slow track.
For Pakistan a draw would come as a relief, because it was clear from the second day itself that it was the best result they could hope for. Wasim Jaffer looked exceptional against a below par Shoaib Akhtar. He was also severe on the inexperienced Sohail Tanvir, and the fluency of his stroke-play was a treat.
Once he laid the platform, India’s middle order made merry with just about everybody, including the local favourite Sourav Ganguly scoring heavily. It was hard for the Pakistani attack both times, because this Indian batting line-up can only be unsettled by a special bowling effort on a more sporting wicket.
The visitors will hope that the good form the two Ys — Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf —showed yesterday, will be on show in Bangalore as well. However, the standout performer for them was once again Misbah-ul-Haq, and it makes me both happy and baffled to see this 33-year-old perform so well. Happy, because he is such a great find for Pakistan; baffled because he was not given opportunities earlier.
However, if Pakistan want to square this series, the man who simply must perform in Bangalore is Shoaib Akhtar. He was below par in Kolkata owing to fever, which severely dented his team’s chances in this game. He has to make a mark in this series, and for that he has to lead this bowling attack. The other bowlers are too new or just lack the experience/ability to lead an attack. Younis Khan once again looked the part as a captain. He has always been a gutsy, selfless cricketer, and it is a shame that he does not want to lead the side.
As I said in my earlier article, Shoaib Malik has the attributes of a good captain, but temperament, shrewdness and aggression come to nothing when your own place in the side is not cemented.
Malik has to perform and perform consistently, only then can the other attributes be used to their fullest potential.