Shoaib's act unpardonable
The beamer bowled by Shoaib Akthar in the last ball of the 126th over during the Indian innings in Faisalabad was definitely against the very spirit of the game.
After being hit all over in that over, he came round the wicket and slipped in a beamer and aimed it straight at the throat of batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
What followed next is an arrogant, nonchalant walk back by the bowler without even tendering a fake apology to the batsman or the umpire.
Had it hit the batsman, the beamer could have proved fatal. Such acts need to be severely condemned and even punished. The laws of cricket may suggest that the bowler would be reprimanded on the first instance, but here it needs to be dealt beyond the rulebooks.
The Faisalabad wicket was slow and the bowlers were at the mercy of the batsmen all the time. One could understand the frustration and the sense of defeat that was creeping into the bowlers. But all said and done, the beamer, bowled at 150 kmph, clearly indicated that Akthar had no sporting intention whatsoever.
We have seen the best of Pakistan bowlers in Imran, Wasim and Waqar operating with just not great pace but with class and finesse. This tour of Pakistan is underlined for friendship and peace and this incident was not too far away from making the entire effort collapse.
It is true that the pitches are dry and placid. But the team batting first and scoring close to 600 runs invariably puts tremendous pressure on the team batting second. A huge total like 580 also offers the bowlers freedom to experiment over the team batting second. In such situations, the game turns more psychological than anything else.
Pakistan, who won the toss in both Tests so far, posted huge totals. But somehow the hosts could not translate the psychological edge to their advantage. In my view, had India batted first and put on such tall scores, I am not too sure whether Pakistan would have sustained the pressure of batting second.
No amount of words is enough to praise the longhaired wicket-keeper batsman from Ranchi, Mahender Singh Dhoni. He was simply a batsman confidence personified. One of the signs of champion cricketers is that they perform within the first few given opportunities. Four years of good Ranji Trophy experience has laid the right foundation for him to graduate to the international level.
It is often a common practice to blood youngsters too early into international sport. Few prodigies succeed but many bite the dust. Dhoni made it at the right time and could absorb the pressures of the game well and presented himself with great maturity.
His encounter with Shoaib was an important building block in his career. The time he walked into the crease after Yuvraj Singh's dismissal was itself a great test as the team was fighting to avoid the follow on. But the way he took Shoaib by the scruff of the neck was some sight to watch. I sincerely hope we have a finally found a wicket-keeper batsman for at least another decade.
VVS Laxman's innings got overshadowed by the brilliance of Dhoni and Irfan Pathan and their ability to handle pressure.
Rahul Dravid, by default, had to bat the way he had batted. Let's save Rahul's performance for another day. After watching Irfan batting in Pakistan, one must admit that he is now a true all rounder. Even Irfan bowled with more meaning and purpose in the second innings.
Inzamam-ul Haq's unruffled efforts seem to be constant, be it with a back injury or an upset stomach, or on a pitch with life or no life. Shahid Afridi's opportunistic batting on slow tracks has caused serious worries for the Indian bowlers.
Although his technique can come for some questioning on true Test pitches, his high impact ways can assume dangerous dimension on flat wickets. Maybe a bit of pace in the shoulders of the Indian pacers can undo him with short pitch balls. But these tracks are too much to his liking.
The last five days has produced more than 1500 runs with six different batsmen scoring hundreds. Where would the bowlers go from here?