| Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami perform stretching exercises during training in Lahore on Sunday. (Reuters)
Lahore: The last Indo-Pak Test at the Gaddafi, over 14 years ago, produced as many yawns as runs. Now, with the hosts trailing in the three-match series, there may not be even one dull moment once the second Test gets underway on Monday.
While Pakistan must not lose, if they are to stay alive till Rawalpindi, stand-in captain Rahul Dravid will be looking to wrap it up before Sourav Ganguly takes back the reins. Of course, he insisted that harping on the innings victory in Multan wouldn’t be quite the right approach.
With the wicket green and promising bounce, the toss could play a bigger role than usual. Dravid, however, pointed out that calling correctly alone isn’t going to make a difference: “You’ve got to make the toss count, as we did in Multan...”
The build-up to Test No. 2 hasn’t been without drama — and, one isn’t alluding to curator Andy Atkinson and the surface. Indeed, the ‘action’ has involved players, with senior pro Moin Khan pulling out with a groin strain and Virender Sehwag getting away with a bruise after being hit by Ajit Agarkar at Sunday’s nets.
Sehwag, India’s one and only triple centurion, was struck around the left knee-roll and was painful enough for him to collapse. Fortunately, it didn’t lead to anything more than a bruise.
The Moin-development has come as a boon for young Kamran Akmal. He’s no rookie, but hasn’t been getting many opportunities. More than anybody else, then, he will grab this call-up with both hands.
Leggie Danish Kaneria, a Karachi-based Hindu with roots in Surat, must be preparing similarly: He’s set to take the berth occupied by Saqlain Mushtaq in Multan. “I’ve been wanting to play against India... God willing, my chance is hours away and I’ll be able to make an impression,” Kaneria told The Telegraph.
Pakistan, one learns, are contemplating making one change for tactical reasons — dropping allrounder Abdul Razzaq and fielding left-handed Asim Kamal, who scored an excellent 99 on debut (versus South Africa, earlier in the season). Idea is to get a specialist and bolster the batting.
Incidentally, Shabbir Ahmed complained of pain in his right shin after Saturday’s workout, but the “precautionary tests” haven’t revealed a problem. Probably comforted by that, the lanky quick went flat out on Sunday.
As for India, as already reported in these columns, Agarkar is going to take Zaheer Khan’s place. Apparently, Ashish Nehra too is tipped to make it — it’s just that the hard-working Lakshmipathy Balaji will have to be dropped. Eventually, sentiment may not come in the way of Nehra making a return.
The decision, though, is only going to be taken before the toss.
“Bowling in the right areas is the key... Simply, it’s about line and length, not rocket science... As important will be holding the catches,” remarked Dravid, adding: “We know we haven’t held on to the lead (overseas) in the last couple of years, but that’s an area we’ve been looking to improve. We have a good opportunity to correct that.”
[On the personal front, Dravid must be looking to correct his batting average as (stand-in captain). After all, his scores have been 13, 5 (Mohali) and 6 (Multan).]
Key No. 2, if one can put it thus, is scoring big — batting first or second. Having totalled at least 675 in two of the last three innings, the Indians are familiar with posting a jumbo score.
By the way, the captain who wins the toss may actually have hoped that his opposite number called correctly...
TEAMS (as of Sunday night)
INDIA (likely): Akash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S.Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra.
PAKISTAN (likely): Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Yasir Hameed, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal/Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Sami, Shabbir Ahmed.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Simon Taufel.
Play starts at 10.30 am (IST).