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Friendship Series will witness a lot of verbal abuse

As the Indian team landed in Lahore on Wednesday to start the historic tour of Pakistan, all I can gather is that each and every member is under tremendous pressure to dish out a winning performance.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2004 00:05 IST

As the Indian team landed in Lahore on Wednesday to start the historic tour of Pakistan, all I can gather is that each and every member is under tremendous pressure to dish out a winning performance. Neither the 1996 World Cup played in India, nor Pakistan's visit to India in 1998-99 generated such attention and publicity.

Apart from the normal cricketing gains, the active participation and interest taken by the governments of both the countries, the initial reluctance of the players to make the tour and their subsequent acceptance, the media interest, the expected diplomatic gains of strengthening ties and the huge amount of money poured in by the sponsors -- have all rolled into one to make this tour the mother of all series.

It appears that the reception and the build-up around the Indian team during the momentous tour of South Africa in 1992 has been beaten fair and square by the current tour. India's deputy Rahul Dravid admitted he has never experienced a buzz of this sort in his career so far.

Only Sachin Tendulkar can measure the intensity of this tour in comparison to the previous one in 1989 when he made his debut.

Off course, apart from the usual cricketing performance of runs and wickets, it is the tone, tenor and the gestures of the players that will play a significant role in deciding the series.

I am afraid that verbal abuse will be rampant from the Pakistan camp, as their coach Javed Miandad has already initiated the process of physiological warfare. At the same time, I am pretty confident that the seniors in the Indian team are far too experienced in handling such things and have certainly prepared the younger lot to follow their footsteps. Some exchange of words is always good to give a boost to the challenging spirit of the game. But resorting to indecent personal remarks and vulgar gestures will definitely not augur anything good to the so-called Friendship Series.

Barring the incident in Toronto where the current Pakistan skipper Inzamam ul-Haq strode into the crowd taking the law (read bat) in his own hands, his behaviour as a cricketer has always remained exemplary.

A great timer of the ball, Inzy has always been a cool customer -- be it in win or defeat.

The rest of the Pakistani players cannot be put on the same pedestal. Behind the stumps, Moin Khan could be the real culprit. Wicketkeepers standing behind the stumps can be a menace to the game if they don't conduct themselves properly. Stumpers' proximity to the batsmen makes it easier to exchange words.

Shoaib Akthar has learnt his lessons from the World Cup encounter. His arrogant remarks only made our batsmen more determined to treat him disdainfully. Although Shoiab is careful with his words this time, the truth remains that he can't really promise on his own conduct.

The game is such a leveller that nobody can get away with a show of arrogance. Even the real exponents of the game dread to make such conceited statements for the fear of the curse of the game, which could be severe. The match referee is the all-important man in this series. Ranjan Madugalle, the former skipper of Sri Lanka, has a huge responsibility in conducting this series. Understanding the sensitive nature of this tour, Ranjan will have to set high disciplinary standards for both sides. I am sure he realises that even a small on-field incident can spark exaggerated effects in both the countries where cricket is followed like religion.

The Indian players have landed in Pakistan in the quest of winning the series. The teams are evenly poised, if not equally balanced.

Both will fight for team honour, the game and country. But every member of the cricketing fraternity has the responsibility to propagate the game in the right manner. Players being unduly criticised for their commitment and courage, that, too, without proper insight of the game or with clear vested interest can cause havoc. We witnessed similar incidents during the last World Cup, where unreasonable comments from a section of the media put tremendous pressure on the players and their families.

I join the millions of cricket followers in the country to wish the Boys in Blue all the luck and a safe return.

First Published: Mar 12, 2004 01:09 IST