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Seeing Sachin flow freely was great

india Updated: Nov 17, 2007 00:28 IST
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What can I say — it's horribly depressing losing like this.

It was a good total, about average for the wicket and we had some good knocks, Yousuf's, Misbah's, mine, but I still think it was 25 runs short. It never is easy, batting on low pitches and this was very low, see what happened to Salman (Butt, lbw second ball to RP Singh).

I think the problem was twofold: We didn't bowl according to plan and, Sachin Tendulkar. He played magnificently. It was a joy to watch him play as he did, freely, like the Sachin of old, seemingly without any pressure.

I really envied him that, the apparently lack of pressure. For Yousuf and I, that thought is always there, 'what happens if we get out?' And from time to time, that tension tells, the constant pressure of carrying a team, the strain of trying to keep it all at bay and focus.

Talking of strain, I really feel for Shoaib Malik at this stage. I am vice-captain but it is invariably the skipper who both gets the accolades and bears the brunt of criticism, especially in high-voltage encounters. And there can be nothing more dramatic for a captain than an Indo-Pak match.

I had said earlier that Shoaib needed to enjoy his captaincy, but obviously, given how things have panned out, he cannot be enjoying it. If Dhoni were in this situation, he would not have enjoyed it.

Shoaib has been under heavy fire, people have been talking behind his back, criticising his strategy; the strain will obviously tell. He will have to deal with it and it is not easy. He is also so young and people fail to make allowance for that.

A win against India or Pakistan makes a huge difference in opinion, look at how people are saying Dhoni should have been Test captain based on the T20 victory and a one-day series win against us.

I know how tough it can be to battle circumstances. During the Champions Trophy last year, my captaincy began with Asif and Akhtar sent back under that doping cloud. I was shaken and it reflected in my leadership and form. In three games I must've made a total of 15-20 runs.

In Shoaib's case, he has to deal with leading a team in the midst of great change. The boys haven't played together consistently and consequently, it is looking scrappy. Misbah is on the comeback trail, so is Salman, Imran Nazir is not playing regularly, the captain is young and new to the job. Of the bowlers, Shoaib Akhtar is making his international return, Umar Gul is much improved but back regularly only recently, Rao Ifthikar and Abdur Rehman have been in and out. Really, only Yousuf, Shoaib himself and I have been regulars.

India, on the other hand, have only Dravid missing from the one-day regulars. Sachin, Ganguly, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Uthappa, they have played together a while and gelled. It makes a difference. When we last came here under Inzi bhai, we were a unit and it showed.

Having said that, India are deserving winners and have outplayed us right through. But we must win here in Jaipur. We have two things to play for, pride and momentum (ahead of the Tests).

I'm telling people one thing. India lost the one-day series to Australia, won the final ODI and the T20 game and the series loss to the Aussies was apparently forgotten. The team that played us seemed like winners, high in spirit and confidence. That is what we are aiming for, putting the past behind and looking ahead instead.