December 29, 2010

Test cricket is alive and kicking. India’s nail-biting win against Australia in Mohali has proved this once again. Coming at the back of the Champions League T20, the Mohali Test had more excitement than the Chennai Super Kings-Warriors final. For those who have questioned the future of Test cricket, the Mohali match has been a great advertisement for the five-day game.

Unfortunately, a two-Test series between the top countries in the world is not enough. I feel a two-match series is unfair on the visiting side, more so if the team is Australia, England or New Zealand. I wonder how the Aussies agreed to this itinerary. It takes a while to digest the playing conditions and that’s what happened to the Aussies. Before they could fathom the Mohali wicket and its vagaries, India had already swung it their way. ICC must make it mandatory to have at least a three-Test series, if not a five-match contest. The ODIs and T20s can follow.

Australia looked good to win the Test at one stage. But I must say, the ninth-wicket 81-run stand between Ishant (Sharma) and (VVS) Laxman was decisive. India’s grit and the ability to fight till the last were good signs. Players like Laxman, Dravid, Sachin and Zaheer only reinforce my view that there is no substitute for experience in Test cricket.

The hunger in the senior players actually make India what they are today. The Rainas and the Kohlis, the Vijays and the Ojhas will only improve if they continuously experience the tenacity and perseverance of the Tendulkars, Laxmans and Zaheers. I must congratulate the Indian selectors in reposing faith on able senior players. And I am sure Dhoni must be excited to have them in the dressing room.

Alas, this is not the case in Pakistan cricket. Our players have been in the news for the wrong reason and it’s all hunky-dory out there. It is so sad to see senior players sitting out when the Pakistan team needs them. Crisis and more crises are crippling Pakistan cricket. The good is being overshadowed by the bad and that is unfortunate.

There are more questions than answers in Pakistan cricket. The foremost question is: who will become the Test captain? Salman Butt had all the qualities but the current issues have set him back. I was speaking to Shahid Afridi recently. He told me that the team was under immense pressure in England. But they played well.

We all know Pakistan have a habit of forgetting their troubles once they are on the field and give their 100%. They forget about the controversies. So I think they will have to do the same against South Africa in UAE. But they will really have to motivate themselves in Dubai, where there will be little or no public support in the Test matches.

With the IPL auction due early November, I am really keen to see Pakistan players this time around. Pakistani players add charm to the matches by sheer capability. Players like Umar Gul, Afridi and Saeed Ajmal can be assets for any team. Young quickie Mohammad Irfan is also an exciting T20 cricketer. More importantly, IPL following will grow in Pakistan and fans will follow the league. They will also identify with the franchises and their players. That is why it is crucial to open the doors to Pakistani players. It will only improve ties between India and Pakistan.


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