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A sizzling start that fizzled out for the Indians
by Gulu Ezekiel
Feb 03, 2006
Indian cricket has long been plagued by the lack of ability of our bowlers to finish off the job.

A sense of déjà vu would no doubt have enveloped many of those who witnessed the opening session of the third and final Test at Karachi last week.

Thanks to Irfan Pathan's unique first-over hat-trick, India had Pakistan on their knees at 39 for 6. The home side recovered to 245 all out and went onto complete a crushing victory.

Go back to 1999 and the Asian Test championship match at Kolkata. This time an opening burst by Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad had Pakistan reeling at 26 for 6. They made it to 185 all out and won the Test by 46 runs.

Remarkably, on both the occasions it was the wicket-keeper (Kamran Akmal at Karachi and Moin Khan seven years ago) who led the recovery.

Those with even longer memories will recall with bitter regret how back in December 1969 we had Australia pinned down in the fifth and final Test at Madras. At 24 for 6 and leading by 95 runs on the first innings, Australia were struggling to save the Test. They not only went onto reach 153, but come out winners by 77 runs. A series that India could have drawn 2-2 was instead squandered away 1-3.

There have been innumerable other instances dotting India's cricket history.

As mentioned in an earlier column, the success of Rahul Dravid as opener in the first Test at Lahore sent out all the wrong signals. The Faisalabad wicket for the second Test too turned out to be a feather-bed and this gave the Indian batsmen a false sense of complacency.

In his desperation to include Sourav Ganguly in the playing XI, Dravid not only over-ruled coach Greg Chappell, he also upset the balance of the side when a specialist to partner Virender Sehwag at the top of the order was the need of the hour, particularly at Karachi.

The sameness of the Indian seam attack - three left-arm bowlers--in the third Test also made things predictable for the Pakistani batsmen once they had got over the initial shock of Pathan's opening burst.

The fact that both Irfan and Zaheer Khan have dropped in pace over the last two to three years is a cause for concern.

The Indian team prides itself on having a number of specialists among the support staff. But what it sorely lacks is a bowling coach.

Reportedly, Aussie speed legend Dennis Lillee has expressed his willingness to take up the post. Having had plenty of experience with Indian bowlers over the last 20 years at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai,

Lillee would be the perfect choice. Lillee was part of the legendary Australian team of the 70s and 80s and has the right chemistry with his ex-captain Chappell.

The Indians need to regroup and hopefully come back stronger in the one-day series. They should also ignore the offensive comments which former Pakistan players specialize in and which are unfortunately given wide coverage in the Indian media.

More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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