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For once, a buccaneering effort by Pakistan's best batsman went in
vain, although his 140 in the third Coca Cola Independence Cup Final 
against India, following his record busting 194 a few months ago 
against the same team, firmly established Saeed Anwar as India’s 
chief tormentor. Saeed’s latest hundred was built around his 
biggest asset: his ability to block out the crowd, unpleasant 
playing conditions, the tension, and the frequently bizarre batting 
dramatics of Afridi. He is a modest man who is least impressed by 
the size and frequency of his one-day hundreds, claiming it is only
fair to bat as long as possible when runs can be made; which, when 
you think about it, is perfectly logical. In a sport where every 
other athlete pretends to be a stuffy egomaniac, Saeed stands apart. 
Which is why I rate him as the period’s best one-day batsman. 

It is nearly 2:30 in the morning (Pakistan time) and after several 
tries, I finally get through to Anwar…on his cellular phone. He is
surfing the net, he tells me; which explains why I couldn’t reach
him at his regular number. He is surprisingly alert, and sounds
happy to have reestablished contact with me. "It seems like you are 
interested in interviewing me only after I make a big
hundred Nadeem," he laughs. 


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Q:I know this is a loaded question, but what went wrong in the third 
final against India? A target of 315 runs from 48 overs under those
conditions would have given almost any fielding team better odds. 

SA :Well, several things happened. First the light was bad, really 
bad. Then the ball was changed several times. When play started 
after the interruption, we were given a new ball. And since Saqlain
was bowling, being a spinner, it became difficult for him to grip
the ball. But there is no doubt that we badly missed Wasim and Waqar. 
With their ability, it would have been interesting to see if the 
Indians would have made it. 


Q: Can you pick one particular moment during the Indian innings
that stands out in your opinion as the one where Pakistan actually 
lost the advantage? 

SA: Oh, there were too many lapses on our part. I think we missed
stumping chances off both Ganguly and Singh. And the dropped catches, 
particularly Aaquib Javed's dropped catch of Ganguly was crucial.


Q :What about Azhar Mahmood's over, the 5th of the Indian innings
when Tendulkar hit him for 4 consecutive fours? 

SA :Well, basically Azhar is an all-rounder, and not really a 
strike bowler. By selecting him to open our bowling, we were 
always taking a risk. But then the other choice was Fazle Akbar,
and since Azhar is a better batsman, we had to go with him. Besides,
Azhar is a promising prospect and we have to look at the future as 
well.


Q : Do you think the Pakistani players were a bit overconfident 
initially? 

SA :I think we were confident. We're always confident going into a
big game. I wouldn't say we were overconfident. The wicket was a
beautiful batting surface, and we knew runs could be made easily 
if batsmen just hung around. 



Q :When the umpires led the Pakistan team off the field in the 39th
over, did you guys think you might have won the game? 

SA: At that moment , no. Everyone was unsure what was going on. There 
was no celebration because we weren't very thrilled about winning 
in that manner.


Q :What changed the umpires' mind? What brought them back on the 
field? 

SA: A couple of things. Azharuddin stayed out there in the middle, 
and protested. He talked to Rashid Latif and after consulting with
his players, I think Rashid decided it was only fair to continue
playing.


Q :Why wasn't Mushtaq Ahmed played? 

SA: We had two leg-spinners already, and, we felt, for those 
conditions, they were better options. 


Q :In hindsight, how badly were Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis missed? 

SA: I am confident the results would have been different… in our 
favor had Wasim and Vicky(Waqar) been with us.



Q: I see now that the team for the South African tour has been
announced; Wasim Akram is missing from the list and so is Shahid 
Afridi. Did you expect this? 

SA: Wasim has a hamstring problem. I spoke to him a few minutes ago, 
and he was quite disappointed at not being able to take part. As for
Shahid Afridi, I think the Board feels that he is not ready for Test 
cricket; I think they are molding him into a specialist one-day 
opener; hopefully he will make it back. 


Q: Do you prefer Shahid Afridi to Aamir Sohail as an opening partner? 

SA: Aamir is definitely a better batsman. He has a sound technique
and temperament. Afridi needs to learn to play a longer innings. He
has played more than 50 matches so far, but has only one hundred.
That is not good enough given his talent. But he is still young so
he has time on his side.


Q: Are you surprised that Aamir Sohail's promotion to vice-captaincy,
given that he was dropped/banned a few months ago? 

SA: Not really. I think the selectors are backing Rashid Latif up so 
if he decides to not lead, they have an experienced player ready.
And since I refused the Captaincy, I think Aamir was their logical 
choice.


Q: You had a short and somewhat unsuccessful stint as Captain. If 
asked to do so, would you consider leading the side again? 

SA: There were other factors that contributed to my failure to give 
the people the results they expected when I was the Captain. My 
batting didn't click. Our main bowlers were suffering from injuries. 
But, yes, if asked to lead again, I would. Not now, though. Maybe a
year or so from now. It depends on what the situation is like..


Q :You have a knack of converting 50s and 60s into hundreds,
especially big hundreds against India. Why does it come so easy
to you? 

SA: Other than Srinath, India doesn't have a good strike bowler. It
is quite easy to score five runs an over and play a longer innings.
That's what I try to focus on-playing a long innings.


Q: What do you think of the present crop of Indian bowlers? 

SA: Srinath's good. They are missing Kumble. The others are young 
and will get better with experience.


Q: Any predictions about Pakistan's performance in South Africa? 

SA: It will be an interesting contest. I think South Africa is on a 
bit of a roll; be we aren't pessimistic. We have the firepower to 
do well. Inshallah, we will do well. 


Q :Saeed, I thank you for your time, and wish you plenty of luck for
the tour of South Africa-not that you need it. 

SA :Thanks.



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