The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India face Pak in ‘virtual semi-final’
- ASIA CUP - Laxman misses nets, but Sourav is confident he will play; Opposition unlikely to make changes

Colombo, July 24: Where calculations go, it’s straightforward: A win will take India (and Sri Lanka) to the Asia Cup final; a Pakistani victory, on the other hand, is going to keep them alive and possibilities will come into play.

Clearly, the build-up to the sixth Indo-Pak ODI face-off of the year — this time in an IndianOil-sponsored tournament — couldn’t have been more pointed. Given that, the morrow is probably going to witness a clash more gripping than the one in Karachi a shade over four months ago.

The question is: How many will park themselves on the Premadasa Stadium terraces'

India beat Pakistan 3-2, earlier this year, and if current form is highlighted then one way of judging is how they have fared against Sri Lanka — India lost by 12 runs; Pakistan got whipped by seven wickets.


Captain Sourav Ganguly, however, dismissed talk that India remain fancied the most: “I’ve never believed in there being a favourite for a one-day competition… Whoever plays better on the day in question wins... For us, it’s a virtual semi-final.”

For Pakistan, it’s a matter of existence.

Despite the undeniable pressure, skipper Inzamam-ul Haq maintained his team was relaxed. In fact, coach Bob Woolmer made much the same point in a chat with The Telegraph. “The boys know what should be done and, as I told you the other day, it doesn’t help being too concerned with the baggage of history,” he pointed out.

Woolmer, by the way, is going to be as closely watched as Shoaib Akhtar who is bound to prove a point or two. The tearaway will, at least, be seeking to quickly exorcise the ghost of Rawalpindi.

Incidentally, speaking exclusively, Sourav remarked “everyone was cool.” One actually sensed that at the afternoon workout. ‘Missing’ was V.V.S. Laxman, given a day off to recover from the Zaheer Khan blow at yesterday’s nets.

Unfortunately (and very painfully), Laxman was struck in the same bone bordering the left knee where Ashish Nehra hit him in Dambulla last week. Contacted late in the evening, Laxman said the “swelling and pain was less,” but added physio Andrew Leipus would make a fresh assessment in the morning.

The captain, for his part, is confident that Laxman won’t miss the action.

In case Laxman is ruled out, the Indians can’t look beyond Parthiv Patel as an eighth specialist batsman couldn’t be accommodated in the XIV. More important, it’s going to become a 50-50 game.

As reported in these columns, Sourav and coach John Wright (who developed fever last evening) have decided to continue with a 3-1 attack. Specifically, the bowling line-up will be: Nehra, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble.

Pakistan, one learns, won’t change the side routed by Sri Lanka on Wednesday. In any case, Imran Farhat is still unfit.

While there’s agreement on the high stakes, Sourav differed with Inzamam on the debate over chasing under lights. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem... We’ve done that in the past...”

That isn’t unnecessary baggage.


India (likely): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra.

Pakistan (likely): Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Shoaib Malik, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Moin Khan, Mohammed Sami, Shoaib Akhtar, Shabbir Ahmed.

Umpires: Billy Bowden, Billy Doctrove.

Match Referee: Mike Procter.

Match starts: 2.15 pm (IST)

Plan to revive ATC

Meanwhile, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) intends reviving the Asian Test Championship. At the moment, though, nothing concrete is on the drawing board. “It’s premature to speak in definite terms,” ACC chief executive Syed Ashraful Haq told The Telegraph.

As for the next Asia Cup, it should be hosted by Pakistan, but even tentative dates are yet to be worked out.

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