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Advantage is with India now

It is a study in contrast. Pre-series predictions ? by experts and laymen alike ? said it would be India's batting versus Pakistan bowling, writes Inzamam-ul-Haq.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2004 23:57 IST

It is a study in contrast. Pre-series predictions -- by experts and laymen alike -- said it would be India's batting versus Pakistan bowling. After four games, and when honours are even, one can safely say that it has turned out to be a contest between Pakistan's batting and Indian batting. I have no hesitation in admitting that our much-vaunted pace attack has failed to deliver despite getting total support from the batsmen.

The most consistent factor in the four games so far has been our batting. We chased 349 in the first game and fell short by five runs. In Rawalpindi we put up 329 on the board to win the game. In Peshawar, we chased 244 successfully and in Lahore we made 293 but still lost the game.

There can be no excuse for losing the match on Sunday. We had India on the ropes, but our bowlers failed to deliver the knock-out punch. With India's top-four back in the pavilion, the manner in which Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Kaif batted under pressure was admirable. The youngsters in my side would do well to learn from them.

Kaif and Rahul didn't do anything out of the ordinary. They didn't have to. Our bowlers let them play their natural game and let themselves down in the process.

Extras hurt us badly in the first game. It came back to haunt us again on Sunday. However, the extras would not have hurt us badly had my bowlers bowled a tighter line and length. If you give Indian batsmen width on either side of the wicket, they will murder you. As a captain, a no-ball or a wide irritates me no end, but a poor ball hurts the team. Their lack of discipline cost us the match. Coach Javed Miandad has put in a lot of hard work in the nets to rectify this, but obviously it has not worked. On a grassy pitch in Peshawar they allowed India to score 244, which is a very competitive score. Thanks to Hameed and Razzaq we won the game.

Am I being a bit harsh on my bowlers? I should be. It is about time they put their hands up and do the job for Pakistan, for the fate of this five-match series rests in their hands.

The advantage we held after Peshawar is gone. India now have the upper hand. After Sunday's win, they will not only have the momentum with them, but also the confidence that comes from successfully chasing a big score like 293.

I have a lot of respect for India's big guns -- Sachin, Sourav, Laxman and Dravid -- but, in my opinion, the winning edge is provided by the young and talented duo of Yuvraj and Kaif. They are a joy to watch whether they are batting or fielding. The induction of Irfan Pathan has added an edge to their bowling.

On a personal front, it is not a nice feeling to score a hundred twice and end up on the losing side on both occasions. Nothing can be more frustrating for a captain and a batsman. But in cricket, as in life, you can't have it all. I would he happy to be out for a duck, if Pakistan win the last game that can well be termed the "final".

We have some soul-searching to do before the big day. In all probability, we will go back to the five specialist bowlers formula and play another frontline batsman rather than a sixth bowler who ends up not contributing with the bat or ball. Also we have to take a long, hard look at our fast bowlers. We can't afford to get the combination wrong in what promises to be the "mother of all the games".

Cafe Cricket

First Published: Mar 22, 2004 23:57 IST