India as dangerous as a bubbling volcano
India came into the Test at Multan with the momentum of a one-day series victory under their belt. From the time Virender Sehwag launched a blistering attack on the new ball they rapidly built on that psychological advantage.
This is now a very good Indian team. There aren't many sides that could overcome the loss of their captain and not even miss a beat but India performed at a high level throughout the first Test. They capitalised on an extroverted batting performance by Sehwag who looks supremely confident after his successful tour of Australia and despite the pitch being a good one the bowlers then made things happen by fully utilising their skill and intelligence. In marshalling this performance and plotting the downfall of the Pakistan batsmen the captaincy of Rahul Dravid shouldn't be underestimated.
Dravid set the tone and established the team priority in the match by declaring with Sachin Tendulkar just short of his second double century in successive Tests. This was the correct decision as it showed his team, a blending of youth and experience, that victory rather than personal milestones is the ultimate prize.
The bowlers really got the bit between their teeth and while it was no surprise to see Anil Kumble circle like a shark with blood in the water it was a joy to watch the performance of Irfan Pathan. There was never any doubt about the young man's skill but he is learning every day about the thought required to take wickets at Test match level. His dismissal of Abdul Razzaq with a first ball bouncer on the fourth day was a clever ploy and in the second innings without the assistance of the injured Zaheer Khan he toiled long and sensibly to maintain the pressure from his end. The similarities between Pathan and former Pakistan great Wasim Akram are eerie.
It was a complete team performance by India and every player contributed. There is now a spirit and determination about this Indian team that is second only to Australia in world cricket. Like all strong cricket teams India are coping with setbacks and Ajit Agarkar provides the ideal replacement for the injured Zaheer if another pace bowler is required in Lahore.
Pakistan on the other hand is in disarray and is ripe for the plucking. It is time for Pakistan to look in the mirror and be honest about their cricket; their muddled thinking around the selection table set the tone for a lacklustre performance in Multan. Pakistan is poised on the top of the slippery dip and another onslaught from Sehwag at the start of the second Test could see them quickly in the sandpit at the bottom of the slide. India are all set to capitalise on what has been a steady build up to excellence that started with their successful World Cup campaign in South Africa. India are currently as dangerous as a bubbling volcano and if the team erupts again in Lahore they could easily win the series three-nil.