Sunday, March 14, 2004

India's first match in Pakistani soil in 14 years.. ? A flash back (Part 1 of 3)

Whoa... Everyone forget 1997? That Rajesh Chauhan six? Ijaz Ahmed's murderous assault? Apparently everybody except Pradeep Magazine!

That is the first impression I got when I watched yesterday's first ODI of the Samsung Series between India and Pakistan at Karachi. Almost zero mention of that particular series when India, after winning the 1997 edition of the Friendship series for the Sahara Cup comprehensively by a 4-1 margin, with the newly discovered all-rounder in the India ranks, Saurav Ganguly (previously better known a batsman) taking the first of his two five wicket hauls in ODIs and ending with a total of 15 wickets and 222 runs @ 55.5 for the series, landed on Pakistan's soil almost 8 years after Waqar Younis, then a debutant had drawn blood from the nose of perhaps the most celebrated Indian player ever, Sachin Tendulkar, who was yet to show us what he could do.

India landed at Karachi on 27th September 1997, after changing their original schedule which had them flying into Karachi straight from Toronto. The Indians chose, instead to fly to Mumbai and then fly to Karachi after almost a day's stop-over. The team landed at Karachi's Quaid-i-Azam International Airport to a "effusive welcome". Tendulkar, the then Indian captain refused to attach any significance to the absence of strike bowlers in the Karnataka trio of Srinath and Kumble and Prasad and also deflected all questions about his unhappiness over the dropping of his chum Vinod Kambli and his wicket keeping choice, Nayan Mongia (interesting when we realize that the same Tendulkar (with Kapil Dev and the rest of the team) reportedly ignored Mongia when Messers. Lele and Co. packed him off with the team to Australia just about six months later). Tendulkar just appealed to the spectators to treat the games as every other ODI (well, that is inviting trouble too right?) and hoped that the Inzamam incident (an incident that Prem Panicker likened to Kurosawa's Rashomon) at Toronto would not cast its shadow over the series.

The first match was played at the Sindhi city of Hyderabad. Pakistan, led by Saeed Anwar for the first time, after Rameez Raja (yeah, he does need a haircut now, but who is Robin?) was ousted as captain, a scapegoat of the 1-4 defeat at Toronto, started in a way quite opposite to the showing from Shoaib and co. yesterday. However, it was Sachin who won the toss and with his opening partner in heavenly form, decided to bat himself out of his horrendous form (yes he was in "bad form" then too, with returns of just 99 runs @ 24.75 in 6 matches at Toronto) and elected to bat. But both him and his partner were seen in the vicinity of the pavilion with just around three overs bowled, both victims of perhaps the first express to play for Pakistan, this one from Burewala - the man Waqar himself! Waqar first had Saurav playing the ball awkwardly to Hazan Raza (one of those hundreds of pre-pubescent savants to play for Pakistan) to end of the first over itself and then had Sachin searching for the arc of the banana in-swinger as it rattled timber behind him. First blood for Pakistan and India in trouble at two down for a quarter of a dozen runs on the board.

When Saurav was walking halfway back to the pavilion, in strode Robin Singh, a man no one probably expected then. But the loss of Sachin perhaps rattled him too as he pushed and prodded to 20 runs out of a partnership of 58 with Azhar who himself made 31. When both fell at 61 and 77 respectively, Jadeja and Dravid then set about continuing the repair work with almost 90 runs till Aaqib Javed (the man with the hat trick in fading light at the pseudo Paki city of Sharjah) decided to get into action and cleaned up any semblance of a fight back by crashing through the defenses of first Jadeja and later Dravid, Kuruvilla and Nilesh Kulkarni. Saqi (a.k.a The Fcuki) contributed with two wickets of his own as India collapsed (now where have we seen that word describing that Indian inning before) to 170 all out, losing 6 wickets for 5 runs in just 14 balls of carefully orchestrated mayhem. Incidentally both Saqlain and Aaqib had wickets in successive balls till the third ball was resolutely blocked by the next Indian batsman!

Pakistan, contrary to the expectation of the millions of eager fans, had to first get past Nilesh Kulkarni (whoa, where is he now?) before they could win. Win, they did, but they huffed and puffed their way to it. Shahid Afridi (by the way, how old is he now? Could any family member or close friend of his please email me? All information would be suitably rewarded with a share of the money that supermarket tabloids in Pakistan, the ones with all the babes in swimsuits and matching burqas in the third page, would pay for this awesome expose!) and Saeed Anwar played belligerent knocks before being caught in front of their wickets by Kulkarni who seemed to spin his web of deceit around the Pakistanis on a wicket of hitherto unknown qualities (this being the first match on the fresh wicket). Then Salim Elahi lost his way across the pitch and found himself caught short by a sharp Tendulkar throw, most people holding Ijaz Ahmed at the other end equally responsible. Soon Ijaz decided his time was up too and edged a Robin Singh dibbly-dobbly to Tendulkar at first (and surely the only one) slip. Tendulkar added another to his booty by superbly pouching Hasan Raza, again at slip to give Kulkarni his third wicket before Inzamam played one of his intelligent knocks to take Pakistan to victory with 5 overs and a few balls to spare in the company of that street fighter in Moin Khan who finished with 12 runs to his credit.

Well, thus ended this first match. Pakistan drew first blood in this series as Aaqib Javed ended up being man of the match for the destruction that started perhaps with Sachin's shattered stumps or even Saurav's fending against Waqar's pace and bounce.

Will be back in a couple of days for a recap of the next two matches in this series. Stay tuned till then....

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