The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fight and give us a Test to remember
- Pak injury-hit but donít forget the X-factor

Captain Shoaib Malik was limping 24 hours before the match. No. 1 strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar was in no condition to make an appearance at the ground. Umar Gul, the second most potent weapon, was forced to take the flight home. There was some concern over a couple of other players as well.

The cloud of uncertainty hovering over the Pakistan camp got darker by the hour on the eve of the second Test. The build-up couldnít have been any worse for a touring side already one down in the series.

There are two ways a team can react in such trying circumstances ó accept reality and fight hard, or just go through the motions and surrender.

I hope Pakistan responds to the challenge and gives us a Test to remember.

If Malik and Shoaib arenít fit to take the field, it can have an unsettling effect on the team.

One is the captain and even though he has not been in good form, the team has got used to his leadership over a period of one month, while the other gentleman in question is half the Pakistan bowling force.

The task for Pakistan will be two-fold: believe in themselves and win the mental battle, and perform better than the in-form Indian team.

The psychological aspect cannot be over-emphasised.

At this level, it is often the mental make-up, rather than the skill factor, which makes the difference.

The Pakistan thinktank must shrug off whatever happened leading to the match and instil confidence in the younger and inexperienced members that they are good enough to do the job. Itíll be a wonderful opportunity for the reserves to show their mettle. The door has been opened for the likes of Faisal Iqbal to perform at one of the best venues in world cricket.

Younis will be at the helm if Malik is ruled out of the equation.

He is a reluctant captain, but whenever he has been asked to stand in, Younis has done a decent job. It was under his leadership that Pakistan thrashed India in the Karachi Test two seasons ago. And it was in the same match that Faisal scored a fine century.

The batting will revolve around Younis and Yousuf.

Thereís a lot of pressure on the duo since Inzamam left the scene, but thatís only to be expected. Both are fine batsmen and will have to carry the load in this hour of crisis. The goal must be to post a 400-plus total in the first innings. That is where Pakistan lost the Kotla Test.

It will be a big game for Kaneria as well. Whoever leads the side will look to the leg-spinner as his main wicket-taker if Shoaib is rendered hors de combat. Kaneria didnít perform too well in Delhi. I thought he was trying to bowl too quickly, a la Kumble.

Kaneria is at his best when he flights the ball and should stick to his strength.

The Indian team looks in fine shape under Kumble. He was very impressive in his first Test as India captain. I donít think heíd be too worried over Dinesh Karthikís early dismissals at the Kotla. The youngster deserves another chance.

I feel bad for Yuvraj. He is sitting out at a time when heís in the pink of form. There will again be no place for him in the XI as everyone in the middle-order got runs, but I hope his form is not wasted too long. Itís one of the duties of the captain to help talented guys like Yuvraj become good Test players.

The Indians will be going into the match as favourites ó not because they are facing a weaker opponent, but because they are playing some good cricket.

Kumbleís team, though, shouldnít take victory for granted. Even an under-strength Pakistan outfit can turn the tables on the very best. Itís that ring of unpredictability which makes them such dangerous opponents on their day. I call it the X-factor.

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