| Rana Naved-ul Hasan practises in presence of Mushtaq Ahmed in Lahore on Thursday. (AFP)
Lahore: Despite Wednesday being his 33rd birthday, Rahul Dravid looked tense and was overheard saying, “there’s too much on my plate.” Some 24 hours later, and as many hours before the start of the latest Indo-Pak series, he seemed relaxed.
Perhaps, the change had much to do with the prickly Sourav Ganguly issue being resolved. Or, perhaps, the visit to the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital made the Team India captain realise (somewhat belatedly) that others faced stiffer challenges.
Whatever, we can only benefit in the Allianz Cup and beyond.
While the hype of the last tour may not be there, absolutely nobody believes the intensity will be less. In fact, with less non-cricket baggage, everybody’s focus is bound to be on what happens in the middle.
It’s easy to suggest a showdown between the Indian batsmen and the Pakistani bowlers, but the Inzamam-ul Haqs and the Anil Kumbles won’t be too amused. The Younis Khans and Irfan Pathans, as well.
“We’re up against an experienced team ... Jeetne ke liye bahut mehnat karna hoga,” acknowledged the home team captain. Having just beaten England, Inzamam is on a high. But, in a chat with The Telegraph, explained that “nothing must ever be taken for granted ... Mushkil khel hai ...”
Pakistan, however, take to the Gaddafi having won each of the last four Tests there ' the sequence began versus New Zealand, in 2001-02. It’s a nice cushion to rest on.
Pointing out that his team had the “responsibility” to play “good, positive” cricket, Dravid said: “It’s going to be an evenly fought series.” Of course, he’s hoping that the opening day gets off to as glorious a start as in Multan (2003-04) when one Virender Sehwag cut the Pakistan attack to pieces.
That set the trend.
While Inzamam felt the toss would definitely make a “10-15 per cent” difference, Dravid maintained it would be marginal. The wicket is without grass, but won’t be short on bounce.
Meanwhile, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who suffered a cut above his left eye while batting on the concrete pitch at the Academy on Wednesday, is fine. “A plastic ball was being bowled and, being small in size, sneaked through the protector ... I didn’t require stitches and there’s no problem,” he informed.
The Test here will be his first overseas.
TEAMS (as of late Thursday)
INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble.
PAKISTAN: Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Yousuf, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Sami, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Danish Kaneria.
Umpires: Darrel Hair, Rudi Koertzen; TV: Nadeem Ghauri.
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.
First day (Friday) timings: 9.45 am to 12.15 pm; 1.15 pm to 3.15 pm; 3.35 pm to 5.05 pm.