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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Mature India 'learn' how to win
By Scott Heinrich

It was a long time coming, but few would say India's first series in Pakistan for 15 years was not worth the wait.

India celebrate in Rawalpindi
It's a process of learning how to win and we're learning more about that
India coach John Wright

Series deciders in both the Test and one-day series guaranteed drama was in plentiful supply, but in the end the superior team took the glory in both.

Pakistan will be disappointed to emerge empty handed against their arch-rivals, but it was surely no disgrace to be outpointed by the most improved team on the planet.

A first Test series victory in Pakistan was due reward for a unit that in the space of six months has transformed itself from underachievers to heavyweight contenders.

The International Cricket Council now rate India the fourth best team, though one only wonders what they would do to South Africa and England right now.

There is no doubt the recent tour of Australia - in which India drew 1-1 - was a watershed for Sourav Ganguly's men, who had won just three of their previous 18 Tests away from home.

"It's a growing process. We've been working at it and what you see today has taken some time," coach John Wright said after India won in Rawalpindi to take the series 2-1.

"It's a process of learning how to win and we're learning more about that. This is a step in the right direction.

"A great credit goes to the senior players and we've got some wonderfully talented youngsters coming in."

It was apt Ganguly usurped Mohammad Azharuddin in Rawalpindi as India's most successful Test captain. Certainly, they seem at the dawn of a new era.

Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq
Inzamam questioned the attitude of Shoaib Akhtar in Rawalpindi

For years India have enjoyed a reputation as a great batting team, but only now do they have the ammunition to support the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

Man of the Series Virender Sehwag continues to startle. India need his unpredictable, dangerous presence at the top of the order, and who is to say his 309 in the first Test will be his zenith?

The issue of whom should open with him is still largely unresolved. Akash Chopra provides a decent foil, but if it means keeping Yuvraj Singh out of the side then India must look elsewhere.

India pulled the right rein by retaining Yuvraj when Ganguly returned from injury for the third Test, dropping Chopra and opening with keeper Parthiv Patel.

Patel hinted at a future in that role with a solid 69, while Yuvraj looks a ready-made Test number seven and not at all out of place at the foot of such a celebrated middle-order.

Virender Sehwag
Sehwag scored 438 runs in the series, including 309 in MUltan

But it was their pace attack that really caught the eye.

Things did not look bright for India prior to Australia when Javagal Srinath retired, and usual suspects Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar took turns on the injured list.

Necessity being the mother of invention, vacancies gave Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji a chance - and both grabbed it, looking all over a new-ball pair for years to come.

The two teams next meet in a triangular one-day tournament in Holland in August, and one suspects a lot of water will flow under Pakistan's bridge in the meantime.

At no stage were they bad, but they looked ramshackle when it became obvious they could not win in Rawalpindi, and accusations from the captain that the star paceman's heart was not in it does not look good.

In the end, Pakistan were outmuscled in most areas, with Balaji and Pathan winning the battle against a top-order of Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar and Yasir Hameed that promised much but only delivered in the second-Test win.

It left Yousuf Youhana and Inzamam-ul-Haq with too much to do too often, and though both enjoyed a decent time with the bat the task was too great.

Asim Kamal, however, begged for future selection with two good knocks, including a courageous fifty with a damaged elbow in the final match.

The top-three wicket-takers were all Indian, painting a damning picture for the Pakistan attack.

They were not helped by Umar Gul's injury during the second Test, nor by Shoaib Akhtar's enforced absence in Rawalpindi when bowling well.

But seven scalps at 62 is a disappointing return for Mohammad Sami, while it is not hard to see why Fazl e-Akbar has played just four Tests since debuting alongside Youhana in South Africa over six years ago.




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