Goodwill, good series, great result!
It's finally over. The series of a lifetime, the goodwill, the drama. Given the oscillating politics between the two nations, no one knows when India will next travel to Pakistan. So, even if you discount the historic first ever series win by India on Pakistani soil (which you actually can't, it's been so overwhelming), everyone around is trying to fill in all the remaining moments with as much of Pakistan's unique flavour as possible.
The Samsung Cup series finished as somewhat of an anti-climax, though the Indian team was much too good — and far more disciplined — than the Pakistani players. And of course, the Indian camp had one big advantage — they did not have to contend with a temperamental prima donna in the form of a star bowler.
India did not have Shoaib Akhtar. No one was quite sure, some 45 days ago, if that was a good thing or not.
Now we know. Thank God for small mercies.
Even as the Pakistani batsmen completed the collapse that began under the fading light on Thursday, the Indians were already in celebratory mood. Right from Thursday night, when many players were happily mingling and moving about the team hotel (with unusual informality), it's been this way.
Everyone was waiting to complete the formalities and the high they were on showed in the field on Friday morning, when a number of catches went a begging. First Yuvraj Singh at his unaccustomed position of forward short leg let go off nightwatchman Kamran Akmal. Then Sachin Tendulkar (at point, again unusual), let go a difficult diving chance off Yasir Hameed, Rahul Dravid put down Inzamam-ul Haq, Anil Kumble couldn't hold on to Hameed slash flying over his head at gully and Yuvraj (at point this time) made a breathtaking dive (that no one else might have attempted) but failed to hang on to Yousuf Youhana.
Anyway, neither the Pakistanis nor the Indians gave up. The Pakistanis kept trying to get out, playing like this was a one-day game and the Indians pulled themselves together and laughed all the way to the trophy.
The Indian bowlers — L Balaji (who's won the popularity stakes in Pakistan where chants of “bala-jee” resound), Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra and Anil Kumble — continued to bowl beautifully. The only time Kumble, who eventually finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series and would have laid to rest the doubts of those that predicted his demise as a bowler, seemed a little unnerved when Shoaib was whacking him around.
But he had the last laugh there too, when Nehra, at deep-midwicket, held onto a Shoaib swipe. Incidentally, though the day was dominated by the overpowering emotion of India's win — manifested by the joyous abandon with which the players celebrated — and the mystery of Shoaib's eccentric behaviour of the last couple of days, the one Pakistani who deserves mention in all this is Asim Kamal.
The southpaw, who was hit on the right elbow by a Ganguly pull on Wednesday and did not take the field at all on Thursday, came out to bat at no. 7 in obvious pain. The first ball he faced, he grimaced and swung his right arm around. After the next ball, he sat on his haunches for a long while with his bat in hand and head looking down.
It is difficult to imagine the strength of purpose and the courage it took to stand there, with that swollen elbow facing an Indian bowling attack that would obviously give him no quarter. He wiped his brow repeatedly, kept holding his arm intermittently, took treatment in between but just wouldn't give up.
At the end, he remained unbeaten even as Pakistan caved in by an innings and
131 runs. And though his knock will eventually be forgotten in the euphoria of India's first series win abroad in over 10 years, for those who watched his innings, it would remain a testimony to what sheer grit can achieve.
This series win has done one thing though — it has proved that this bunch of Indian players is miles ahead of other teams from the past. Not just in talent — even though there have been some outstanding players in the past, it is difficult to recall so much talent in one team — but also in attitude.
There's a spirit in this team that reminds one of the Australians; they are aggressive fighters who give as good as they get and each one of them knows and believes that someone somewhere down the order is willing to stand up and be counted.
That's why that loss in Lahore last week is surprising. Perhaps it was overconfidence but if so, it was a lesson well learnt.
They've crossed that mental barrier now of not winning consistently abroad.
They've been there and done that. It's not difficult to believe that India's star is finally on the ascendant.
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Fazle Akbar.
India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Laxmipathy Balaji.
Umpires: David Shepherd, England, Rudi Koertzen, South Africa
TV umpire: Zamir Haider, Pakistan
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.