Underdogs Pakistan have the last laugh on India cricket tour
by AFP

Player:Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Kamran Akmal, Naved-ul-Hasan, SR Tendulkar
Event:Pakistan in India 2004/05

DateLine: 18th April 2005


When Inzamam-ul-Haq was named captain of young Pakistan's squad in February for the first cricket tour of India in six years, critics said he was merely leading lambs for slaughter.


The team was thin on experience, especially in the bowling department following the withdrawal of paceman Shoaib Akhtar due to a hamstring injury. Their batting was considered unpredictable.


After nearly two months of intense cricket in hot, humid and dusty Indian conditions, Inzamam was set to return home with a bunch of fighters.


Pakistan drew the three-Test series 1-1 and clinched the one-day series 4-2 against India, who had started as firm favourites but ended up acknowledging their opponents' mettle.


Pakistan performed above their potential as they overcame a 1-0 deficit in the Test series and won four successive one-dayers after losing the first two.


"We maintained the belief in our ability even when critics back home gave us no chance. I won't say my team was weak, but the fact that we won it (one-day series) with a very young side made it sweeter," said Inzamam after the final match Sunday.


The prophets of doom were forced to swallow a bitter pill, for they had simply missed the chemistry of India-Pakistan clashes which often gives opportunities to little-known players to hitch their wagons to the stars.


Unsung wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal set the ball rolling with a maiden century to help Pakistan salvage a draw from a losing position in the opening Test at Mohali.


His hundred breathed new life into the Test series which kept changing its course with each day to keep millions of fans on tenterhooks before ending in Pakistan's win in the third and final match at Bangalore.


All the Tests lasted a full five days and were attended by a sizeable crowd despite stifling security, oppressive weather and poor facilities at the venues.


It was more than just a contest between bat and ball.


There was also room for cricket diplomacy as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday watched the sixth and final one-dayer in New Delhi along with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


The Pakistani cricketers gained more than their Indian counterparts from the tour, which had run smoothly before witnessing crowd trouble in the last match in New Delhi.


Pakistan had a cool-headed captain in Inzamam, who always led from the front and looked in control from the beginning.


His memorable moment came at Bangalore where he capped his 100th Test with a flawless 184 to set up his team's series-levelling victory.


The Pakistani skipper scored 401 in three Tests, averaging 80.20. But his main contribution was he was able to bring the best out of his young side.


He backed Younis Khan despite his deputy's twin failures in the first Test. He did not have to regret his decision as Younis scored a hundred in the second Test and a double-century in the third to average 101.60.


Pakistan's surprise packet was Shahid Afridi, who claimed three key wickets with his fastish leg-spin to pave the way for his team's win in the Bangalore Test and then smashed a 45-ball hundred in the fifth one-dayer at Kanpur.


Yousuf Youhana (237 runs in three Tests), leg-spinner Danish Kaneria (19 wickets in three Tests) and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (15 wickets in six one-dayers) also played significant roles.


India had a few moments to cherish despite performing below their potential.


Leg-spinner Anil Kumble bagged seven wickets in his team's win in the second Test at Calcutta, Virender Sehwag was consistent with 544 Test runs and Rahul Dravid scored a century in each innings of the second Test.


Sachin Tendulkar could show only flashes of his brilliance after recovering from an elbow injury. He missed out on a world record 35th Test hundred by just six runs in the Mohali Test.


But India captain Sourav Ganguly remained out of form, scoring 48 in three Tests and 31 in four one-dayers. Worse, he was then banned for six matches for his team's slow over-rate.


It was also a disappointing series for Harbhajan Singh who was reported after the second Test for a suspect bowling action.


In the end, India were left searching not only for a winning formula but also for a coach as New Zealander John Wright quit after the series.

(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)


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