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India go down fighting, cricket wins again

For the second game in a row, Pakistan was in grip of the 'be-good' factor. It's something that is travelling across the country with cricket.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2004 15:00 IST

For the second game in a row, Pakistan was in the grip of the 'be-good' factor. It's something that seems to be travelling across the country with cricket. In Rawalpindi, Islamabad's twin city, this country also got a taste of the 'feel-good' factor, which we in India are so familiar with.

Pakistan has levelled the series. India lost by 12 runs. Be-good or not, they needed this win desperately.

In the Javed Miandad enclosure, Shaukat Wasim Khan sits in his wheelchair. He wears a Pakistan Airforce sunshade and a tie with a neat pin on it: it's a fist holding a dagger with "Crush India" inscribed on it. Smiling, he says he'll wear it as long as the Babri Masjid isn't rebuilt — even outside cricket grounds.

And then, looking towards the dressing room area, where the President was sitting, Khan says: "Pakistan doesn't like dictators." Perhaps they've had too many of them, but just as Khan is about to elaborate the crowd goes up in a roar. Virender Sehwag, after blasting a few (too few, from India's point of view) around the ground, looks behind to find his off-stump perform three and a half somersaults.

Laxman follows, leg before to Sami. More roars from the crowd as a haze settles over the floodlit stadium. Shoaib, Sami and Shabbir regularly hit 140 km/hour. The crowd is finding it difficult to see the ball. But as Ganguly departs, stumped, victory is clearly in sight.

In the way, however, is Sachin Tendulkar. It looks like one of those days when he doesn't want to get out. He drives; gets cute with sweeps and nudges; becomes the first Indian to get a hundred in Pakistan; and then he tires.

Shaukat Khan, still smiling, fiddles with his tie-pin.

In the afternoon, it's 138 for one. Shahid Afridi just out, bowled Yuvraj Singh for 80. Time for the huddle. But not too close, please: if chins rub, it will hurt. Ninety-five minutes into the second ODI in Rawalpindi-the wicket giving them just a bit of time to think-India realised Pakistan had chosen to deliver not just a counter-punch but a counter-pounding.

Indian skipper Sourav looked hungry for wickets but had to resort to snacking on his fingernails instead. Shahid Afridi — with 10 single digit scores in his last 15 ODIs — chose Pindi to make his combeback.

On another dead wicket, definitely prepared without any help from the nearby University of Arid Agriculture, Zaheer and Balaji ran in quickly initially and then quickly ran out of ideas. Nehra, bowling from the memory of Karachi, pulled it back a little, but he too was reminded soon enough that this was a new game. Afridi was threatening to loft everyone onto the Grand Trunk Road-and eventually settling for four or six.

In the stands — even in the little slice of the stadium called the 'Ladies and Families Enclosure' — there was the kind of animation that came close to attracting censure on Pindi's own 'Be good day'. But Karachi's example was being followed. Well enough for securitymen to get into their own huddle-in front of a TV set. "They behaved well, so we've got to behave better. If only they were rowdy-we'd have shown what we could do in that department as well", said a fan with a hint of regret.

It's time for huddle number three. Yasir Hamid is run out, but the crowd takes at least one run out into account when Inzamam is batting. Huddle four follows soon after: Nehra has just knocked Inzamam over.

Next ball, huddle four! Moin dismissed for a duck. Finally, the Indian flags in the Javed Miandad and Imran Khan enclosures come out. In the VIP box, President Pervez Musharraf (also the chief patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Can anyone name an important post he does not hold?) fanned himself.

As some fans spread out newspapers for their evening prayers at the break, Pakistan's score read: 329 for six. But this is probably the only series in memory in which the question "But is it enough?" stayed valid till the final balls for two consecutive games. Can Peshawar make it three?

First Published: Mar 17, 2004 00:34 IST