We are just about midway through the series and already it is plainly obvious - whatever the final result of the Kolkata Test - that the Indian public and media have grossly underestimated the abilities of this Pakistani team.
The inexperience of the visitors and the laidback attitude of captain Inzamam-ul-Haq have proved to be deceptive. Further, Shoaib Akhtar missing the series appears to have had a positive effect on the rest of the team, even if the bowling appears quite thin. Inzamam explained in a recent interview that just because he is a “quiet person” does not mean he does not inspire the team. “When I’m on the ground I am totally different”, he had said in the interview and he certainly appears to have made a valid point.
Surely one does not have to be a demonstrative arm-waving kind of person to be an effective leader. Pakistan’s dismal tour of Australia—where they were whitewashed in the Test series - also added to the feeling in the Indian camp that this team was going to be a pushover. Of course both Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly emphasized in pre-series interviews that the Pakistanis are an unpredictable lot and can never be taken lightly. After all, apart from India virtually every visiting side in recent years has been trounced by the mighty Australians.
Even though they were outclassed over the first four days in the first Test at Mohali, surely it was premature to talk of an Indian victory with Pakistan having lost six wickets in their second innings. It was quite amazing to read the comments of some experienced cricket journalists in their fourth day reports from Mohali. It was as if an Indian victory was a given on the final day!
“They know, somewhere in the horizon, lurks the pot of gold and an unexpectedly facile victory”, wrote one newspaper. According to another: “India hasn’t yet achieved that result but there is very little that Pakistan can do on the final day to prevent the hosts from winning the opening Test”. Well, we all know what Pakistan did on the final day! Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq pulled off the escape act, so much so that Inzamam could even afford the luxury of declaring. The Mohali press box was no doubt resounding with the noise of many journalists eating their words!
There are still three days to go in the second Test (this column is being written at the end of the second day). But with two more Pakistani batsmen taking heavy toll of the Indian bowling, one thing is for sure - this side has much more steel in it than most of us could have imagined. India certainly have a fight on their hands.