Saturday, March 7, 2009

India's win was completely overshadowed

The year was 2004, and as coach of the Indian cricket team, I landed in Lahore amid overwhelming media coverage and security. India was playing in Pakistan after more than a decade and the tour turned out to be once-in-a-lifetime experience.The security was all encompassing and there was a huge military presence around the teams. At first I thought, this is serious stuff, but after a couple of days, we got used to their presence and we were reassured by their utter professionalism and the love and hospitality from all those who came to watch the cricket.We won the Tests and the one-dayers which of course made the tour all the more memorable, but the professionalism of both the boards and the unstinting support of the two governments made the logistics and security part of it completely fool-proof.On Monday, as the Indian batsmen were taking the New Zealand bowlers apart, a myth was shattered outside the Gaddafi Stadium. We had thought that the love for cricket in Pakistan ensured that cricketers were above being targeted.That unwritten belief that reassures sportsmen before they step out in front of tens of thousands is now in shreds. The only relief is how much worse it could have been, considering that some of the most loved cricketers of the world were in very serious danger.It is important to realise that the greatest loss in this sad incident has been incurred by Pakistan. I know that cricketers from other countries will view the whole subcontinent with suspicion but, personally speaking, I would have no hesitation in taking a flight to Mumbai tomorrow.With all these upheavals, it was quite natural that India's wonderful performance was overshadowed. However, MS Dhoni and his batsmen gave a wonderful display of stroke-making. It was a joy to watch Virender Sehwag once again. I used to enjoy his batting when I was India coach, though it could sometimes get quite nerve-racking. The USP of Sehwag is the fact that nobody knows what to expect - and for the spectators nothing can be more thrilling. There is a stability and quiet strength that Dhoni exudes, and it has filtered through the team.Today's game will be crucial for India because, if they make it a 2-0 lead, it will give them the confidence to go for the kill not only in the one-dayers but also in the Tests. For the hosts, Brendon McCullum might be playing only as batsman and even that is still not certain.

The India Test players have landed and I will be meeting Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman tomorrow. We have organised some warm-up games for them, and it will be great to hear from these blokes.

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