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Shoaib can make the difference: Intikhab
- If he fires, the Sachin Tendulkars are going to be neutralised; if he doesn’t, then…

Lahore: Shoaib Akhtar is hoping everything isn’t left to him only, in the forthcoming ODIs and Tests versus India, but Intikhab Alam is convinced he alone can make the difference for Pakistan.

“Your batting is certainly superior, but we have the edge in bowling. Having made that point, I must add the biggest role will have to be played by Shoaib. If he fires, the Sachin Tendulkars are going to be neutralised. If he doesn’t, then...” Intikhab trailed off during a chat with The Telegraph over lunch at the Lahore Country Club (LCC) in Muridke, some 45 minutes away.

A former Pakistan captain, (World Cup-winning) coach, selector and manager, Intikhab is now coaching director of the Lahore Cricket Academy housed within the idyllic LCC. The residential Academy largely caters to boys from overseas, but there’s a programme to help local kids as well.

[The property has been developed by Chaudhury Ali Shujaat, a businessman who shuttles between Coventry and Muridke. Incidentally, current Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq, who is a “good friend,” had a role in “planning” the cricket ground at the LCC, which has hosted national-level matches.]

Intikhab, of course, accepted that Pakistan will be under more pressure. “With the benefit of experience, I know it’s easier playing away from home... Then, for Pakistan, there’s nothing bigger than a series against India... Really, absolutely nothing should mar the Indian visit.”

While conceding that the security angle cannot be overlooked in today’s world, Intikhab said he was “very disappointed” the Indians wouldn’t feature in a Test at the National Stadium in Karachi. “That city has such a rich tradition and, on all counts, deserved to host a five-day game... I know there’s always a ‘next time’, but...”

Insisting it was “too close a call” to pick the team most likely to win the five ODIs and three Tests, Intikhab remarked: “Basically, it’s going to be your batting versus our bowling... But, both teams will have to tackle pressure ... It’s reasonable to assume the next few weeks may make or ruin some careers...”

Spot-on, absolutely.

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