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Now you know what you missed all these years

Now you know what fans missed all these years. Now you know why the Ashes rivalry pales before this rivalry, writes Sunil Gavaskar.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2004 00:59 IST

Now you know what cricket-lovers missed all these years. Now you know why the Ashes rivalry pales before this rivalry. Now you know why no other cricket game brings the crowd to its feet and on the edge of their seats. Now you know why the two countries come to a virtual standstill when they play each other.

In any sport, but especially in cricket, the rivalry is so intense that mini-riots have broken out. Hopefully the series will be played in the same spirit as the first one-dayer where inspite of some incredibly tense situations for both teams, the players -- without losing their competitiveness -- kept their cool and showed the rest of the world that even the closest of matches can be played without resorting to any kind of verbals.

The Pakistani captain probably got carried away by the propaganda that this was a series between Shoaib and Sachin, for there was no understandable reason for him to ask India to bat first on such a good batting pitch. Sure there may have been a bit of moisture but that is usually in the winter months and not in the summer and if he had read Indian cricket's recent record then he would have found that India does struggle to chase runs.

In the end, it was he who had to make up for his error in sending India in to bat and he did that quite magnificently and nearly brought up an impossible victory. The Indians kept their heads in the final pressure moments and picked wickets regularly and that denied Pakistan what would have been a famous victory.

Pakistan also have themselves to blame, for apart from the folly of giving India first strike, their bowlers Shoaib and Sami, in trying to extract bounce and pace, sprayed the ball all over, giving not just extra runs but also deliveries to the Indians.

The no-balls and wides by the Pakistanis made one wonder whether it was part of the welcome package for the Indians touring after so many years.

The openers gave the perfect start with Sehwag in particular relishing the Pakistani bowling, and then Ganguly, a bit tentative in anticipation of the short ball, and the magnificent Dravid made sure the momentum was not lost. They did towards the end when they didn't score enough but still 350 was going to take a lot of getting.

Inzamam-ul-Haq kept his head and in the company of the combative Youhana and Younis Khan almost got his team through.

The Indians were not too far behind the hosts in their wides and no-balls and the fielding also was not at the high standards set in Australia. These are of course early days of a very important tour and there will be nervousness all around. Still when it came to the crunch the Indians kept their nerve while the Pakistanis lost theirs.

In fact, there's reason to believe they lost it even before the game, for the decision to ask India to bat first was nothing short of a nervous act.

The opening game of a series is always crucial and India have won a big psychological round. Now if only they don't slip into complacency mode, they can go on and win the series.

PMG