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Bowlers can hope for some assistance

It is time for Indian players to rest their tired limbs and plan for the battle ahead, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2006 12:17 IST

From the vibrant, invigorating Lahore, the hub of Punjab's cultural life, to the dusty, congested textile city of Faisalabad, the Indian team reached its destination for the second Test on Wednesday afternoon.

It was time to rest their tired limbs — even though not much play took place in the first Test — and plan for the battle ahead. From a purely cricketing point of view, Lahore was a huge disappointment. The weather and the wicket turned the contest into a meaningless skirmish where no one was a winner but no one lost either.

Thursday was a new day. The first sign that life here won't be a big yawn was, ironically, provided by the weather. Blue skies, not even a speck of cloud and the sun greeted the team. And then off to the Iqbal Stadium, just a stone's throw from the hotel.

It is a stadium less intimidating than Lahore's Gaddafi and the smallness of the place gives it an intimate, rather friendly look. If stillness and the absence of crowds were the norm in Lahore, here, life was back to normal.

Fans, mostly schoolchildren, were teeming with excitement outside the stadium and yearning for a close glimpse of their heroes. In the end, all they could do was curse the ubiquitous securitymen, who did not let them close enough to touch the players. Yet, the very fact that they were in close proximity to their idols compensated for their disappointment.

Whether the Indians were disappointed or happy at what they could make of the wicket, which manager Raj Singh Dungarpur termed "Lahore's cousin," no one knows. And whether the teams are as obsessed with the wicket as the media, also no one knows, even though how a track behaves in cricket has a direct correlation with the quality of the contest.

It goes without saying that the curator, Aga Zaidi, was the most sought after man at the ground, even more than Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq. He parroted the same lines about a dozen times in front of the camera: "It all depends upon the weather and so far they haven't had much time to prepare it the way they would have liked to."

His deputy made an interesting analogy, likening the wicket to a "roti (bread) which is put on a tawa (pan)".

"How it turns out depends on the fire (in this case the sun). If the sun plays hide and seek it will remain half-baked. If the sun is too hot it will burn. And if the sun…" well, well, let us leave it at that and not complicate things further. By consensus — that is, arriving at a conclusion after talking to experts and non-experts — the wicket may look like the one at Lahore but may end up behaving differently. "A bit of turn, perhaps some uneven bounce and probably should have something more for the bowlers."

The bowlers would hope this turns out to be true and so would those who would want to see the batsmen being tested far more than they were at Lahore.

First Published: Jan 20, 2006 01:33 IST