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Fitness doubts over RP

Guwahati: Nothing can beat the drama and excitement associated with an India-Pakistan clash. Some even believe it is bigger than the Ashes. It is only natural that expectations are running high. After all, there are several firsts attached to Monday’s high-voltage opener in the IndianOil Cup.

Sample this and you will know that neither the expectations nor the stifling security bandobast are without reason.

To start with, the two arch-rivals are meeting here for the first time, it is also the first match to be staged here after the crowd trouble that followed the abandoned India-England tie on April 9, 2006. It will also be the first time fans will be exposed to replays on the giant screen at the Nehru Stadium.

Former India opener Sadagopan Ramesh, who is turning out for Assam in the Ranji Trophy, said: “You never know... It (Pakistan) is like a stock market... You cannot predict when it will go up or crash.” Similar views are also held about India.

Expectedly, Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his Pakistani counterpart Shoaib Malik said at the match-eve media conference that they were looking forward to a good series. “All international matches are important. You have to give hundred per cent against all team,” said Dhoni.

“A match is a match. It is just another game,” said Malik.

Both captains admitted that coming off a tough series against Australia and South Africa, respectively, will only stand them in good stead. “The one-day series against Australia will help us improve our performance,” said Dhoni. India lost to Ricky Ponting’s side 2-4.

For Malik, lessons have been learnt from the 2-3 loss to South Africa. “We are looking forward to a good match to begin the series,” Malik said. There were no verbal volleys unlike the series between India and Australia. Both, in fact, displayed a healthy respect for each other. “They are a pretty decent side,” said Dhoni.

Both teams had a brief net session which saw Sourav Ganguly getting hit by a Sreesanth delivery. He was clearly in pain, but to the relief of all, he returned to bowl.The Indians decided on their XII in the evening.

Though Sreesanth has not been included in the XII, he could get a game as there is apparently a problem with Rudra Pratap Singh’s fitness. Rookie Praveen Kumar and Rohit Sharma will have to sit out.

An 8.30am start has been decided, half an hour earlier than usual, but there will be no shortened lunch break.

This is because both teams reached here only on Sunday afternoon giving little time for changes to be effected. However, Match Referee Roshan Mahanama has advised both teams to speed up things so that the early sunset doesn’t become a problem.

TEAMS

India (likely): Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir/Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, R. P. Singh/Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik.

Pakistan (from): Shahid Afridi, Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammed Yousuf, Misbah-ul Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer, Abdur Rehman, Rao Iftikhar Anjum.

Umpires: Ian Gould and AM Saheba. TV: G. Pratapkumar.

Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.

Match starts: 8.30 am.

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