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Doubts about Sachin silly

Questions about his future are silly because there is no batsman in India to replace him just yet, writes Imran Khan.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 15:03 IST
Imran Khan

Endulkar. Goneguly. The headlines will be angry and bitter, but this time the Indian players will have to admit that public anger is justified. Followers of the game don't mind a loss if their team puts up a spirited fight. However, when there is a complete capitulation like the one we witnessed, a backlash is to be expected. And most of the criticism will be directed against the stars, since it is they that the fans look to when the going gets tough.
Once three wickets fell, it was expected that Tendulkar would make a gladiatorial fightback that would save the day or at least restore some pride for his team. However, once he fell over and was bowled, those expectations immediately turned to anger. The touchstone to greatness is the ability to stand tall in a crisis. That was what distinguished Vivian Richards among the great batsmen of his time.

On Wednesday, India needed Tendulkar to stem the rot and inspire those who followed to play around him. Unfortunately, that did not happen and this is not the first time that he failed when the team needed him.

Having said that, his vigil at the crease showed that Tendulkar is far from over. Few batsmen would have played with the assurance he showed after being hit on the helmet by Shoaib Akhtar. His strokeplay was confident and powerful and I still feel he has the class to continue playing for his country. I also feel that questions about his future are silly because there is no batsman in India to replace him just yet. My only fear is that when his playing days are over, some critics will feel that a player of his calibre should have won and saved a few more matches.

As far as Ganguly is concerned, I think he looked far more assured than many of the more celebrated batsmen in the Indian line-up. On the evidence of the Karachi Test, it would be difficult to omit him from the Test side because he looked determined and his technique looked a lot better than in a while. However, he did not deliver in either innings, and that is what was expected of an experienced campaigner like him, especially since he did not have to play the new ball in either innings.

In the first innings he played a casual shot because he thought the worst was over once Shoaib was out of the attack. In the second, he looked unprepared first up after tea. Both were the only mistakes he made, but then, the game can be unforgiving at times.

It is not surprising that most of the anger is directed against the batsmen but I still maintain that the big disparity in the bowling was what eventually sealed India's fate. The Indians were military medium and hardly touched 82 mph. On the other hand, Shoaib was consistently bowling at 90-plus while Asif was clocking middle to late 80s. The Indians need to look into this shortcoming urgently if they want to improve their record abroad. Zaheer seems to lose pace every time I see him and even Irfan looks like he has slowed down since 2004. With this pace attack, tours to England and Australia will be nightmarish, no matter how good India's batting is.

And it was this disparity between the two bowling attacks that Pakistan failed to make use of. They should have prepared green wickets at all the centres and I have no doubt that if they had been brave enough to do that, the scoreline would have been more than 10 in Pakistan's favour. Moreover, India's poor batting performance allowed Pakistan to get away with the blunder of not playing Gul, Rana or Sami instead of Razzaq. The latter did very well but that was because Mohammed Asif -the discovery of the series -- and Shoaib had dented India's top order before he came on.

Finally, India cannot sacrifice Rahul Dravid by playing him as opener. He is the mainstay of this batting order, and he was the only one who has played well for his team in crisis situations regularly. India have to find and accommodate a regular opener in their side, or else they will be doing their most dependable batsman a great disservice.

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 15:03 IST