Thursday, April 22, 2004

I was a pre-teen when India last played a test series across the other side of the Radcliffe line.
That time I was in Kashmir, and I remember rushing back from school to watch the post-tea session action
on PTV. Also used to follow the AIR commentary. A new urdu word that was added to my vocab was 'umda',
it was used profusely to describe the lovely cover and straight drives which were regularly played by Manjrekar as
well as a precocious curly haired cricketer, just a few years older than me. India combatted Pakistan well
in the series, the last test at Sialkot was quite pulsating, Vivek Razdan was a revelation. One source of
perennial disappointment for me was Srikanth's regular failures against Wasim Akram, I always wished to see
him play his trademark swashbuckling strokes, but unfortunately he never obliged. Veeru this time more than made up for it.

Now after 14 saal ka banwaas, it was again the same exciting feeling, though now a lot of water has
flowed down the Indus, also for me from being a adolescent boy to being a married man.
Based on current status of the respective teams, and the Pakistani pitches, I thought that maximum there
will be result in a single test with others petering out to be draws, but thankfully I was proven wrong
and we had a result oriented series. I feel it was due to inability of the batsmen of both sides in all the
three tests to play out and grind out innings, barring a few exceptions, like Dravid,Sachin,Veeru,Inzy even they did
it sporadically, so the batsmen let the teams down, there werent any demons in the pitches, nor was the bowling
incisive. As the Pakistani batsmen failed in two tests compared to India's one, so we won. One never knows
if there was a 4th test, they could have won, India has this incorrigble habit of letting their guard down
after a test win, and go on to lose the next one. Ample statistics to corroborate this statement.
Though it is too simplistic to think in these terms, but it has some merit according to me.

Nevertheless it was a champion performance by India, their best ever tour no doubt, winning in both forms.
Though the camaraderie between the teams was commendable, but that needling and raw tension and animosity of the matches in the previous decade, that was the unique characteristic of Indo-Pak matches was missed.
In the greater scheme of things and for the cricket connoisseur it is good that the players, crowd and media have
grown up and there is no more rabble-rousing. Some of the Pepsi ads were in bad taste , like the friendship cutout one,
featuring kaif, zaheer and ganguly and the one about "Paki Khallas, aur badi hain Pyaas".

The player who symbolizes the series for me is Inzamam Ul Haq. His sufi demeanour, batting and his equanimity in both win and defeat, have endeared him to millions of fan.