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January 31, 2000

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For India it's a beginning, not an end

Wasim Akram

It was nice to enter the finals in style, after loosing four of our earlier five games. It has done our confidence a world of good, and now we are looking forward to winning the tournament, after all, there is no doubt that we can do it. I feel that the team which wins the first final will take the cup, because both teams are aggressive and it will be difficult to win two successive games after the conceding the first.

Coming back to the Perth game, we gained immense satisfaction from the trouncing we gave India. Though we looked like getting around 300 at one point, I knew that any total of over 225 would see us home. The WACA pitch has been a favourite of mine and I enjoyed my opening spell. It was just like old times, with Waqar and myself firing on all cylinders from both ends. Even before the Indian innings had begun I knew we were difficult to beat, and after Tendulkar and Ganguly got out it was only a matter of time.

The Indians had a lot going against them. They were tired and jaded after the Adelaide double header, and their failures over the last two months were wearing them down. Under such circumstances, it was surprising to see them have strenuous nets. A team that is struggling on the field does not need further exertions, it needs to relax so that the players can mentally recuperate. I am sure no player benefited from that session on the field.

Another surprising decision was the one to play Ajit Agarkar. I must say it was a brave decision to play a bowler who was just recovering from a hamstring injury in such a crucial game. Mohanty should consider himself unlucky for not getting a chance at WACA after bowling well against us at Adelaide. There is no doubt that Agarkar is a nippy bowler who is often surprisingly quick. However, he has a long way to go and needs counselling. More importantly, he needs to improve his fitness. He is very slightly built and collapses towards the end of a season. He also finds it difficult to maintain a consistent line. Agarkar has been around for a couple of years and it is high time he takes stock of these problems.

I am sure the Indians will receive a lot of flak when they return home. Every team goes through lean phases and the only way to surface from hard times is to learn from them. They have to seriously deal with the problems their batsmen face when they play abroad. Their administration must ensure that their young players get exposure on such pitches early in their careers. Junior squads and A teams should be sent abroad more often. This is the right moment for such moves after the juniors performed so well in the Under -19 World Cup. A few of the batsmen from the Under-19 squad should be inducted, and if there are a couple of promising allrounders, they too should be given a chance. It is better to lose with a young team since they will learn from their mistakes and it is always an investment for the future.

Current players should also be given permission to play county cricket. There are reports that Saurav is going to play for my former county Lancashire. This will only help improve his skills further. Other senior players should also grab such offers, since it will expose them to conditions vastly different from the ones in the subcontinent. In the last few weeks, I have been asked how Pakistan manages to consistently find players of international quality. I believe it has a lot to do with hunger. Life for a cricket is a lot tougher in Pakistan than it is in India. Players know that they have to prove themselves quickly to get financially secure. Sponsorships and endorsements are fewer in Pakistan, which is why the focus is on cricket and getting a permanent place in the team.

I am not very clued in on Indian cricket administration, but I hope the captain will continue to have a say in selection. It would be wrong to stop such a practice on the grounds that some of those who were selected were not able to perform this time round. There is nothing tougher than recovering from a bad series. But India better get back on their feet because they have to face another top team, South Africa, in a few days.

Gameplan

Wasim Akram

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