The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav targets history in victory
- Sweet on lips, steel in heart

Calcutta, March 9: History is on everyone’s lips, particularly those of political leaders on each side of the border. India team leader Sourav Ganguly is also speaking of history, of a different kind.

“We will change it this time” — the words shot out in a sharp burst when the captain was reminded of India’s poor record in Pakistan.

Forget goodwill and revival of friendship, when Sourav and his boys take the field on Saturday in the opening one-day match of the “historic” series, the only force driving them will be the desire to win.

“It’s good to start an away series as favourites, our team knows how to handle this pressure,” Sourav said at the end of the conditioning camp here.

India will tour Pakistan after 15 years to play a full-fledged series (five ODIs and three Tests) as an offshoot of the peace initiative launched by the leaders of the two countries.

If the skipper appeared cool about the favourites tag, coach John Wright went a step farther, saying the pressure will be on Pakistan. “Playing at home means expectations will be high. They have a young batting line-up and some of their bowlers have had to make technical adjustments. The pressure is on them.”

“Technical adjustment” is to “chucking” what “wardrobe malfunction” is to “indecent exposure”. The coach did not use the C-word, but he was referring to Pakistani fast bowlers correcting their actions following adverse reports from match officials.

The captain chipped in with some of his own series-eve pressure tactics aimed at Shoaib Akhtar. “He is a good bowler. But he was in the shadow of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and leading an attack in their absence is a different ball game. Shoaib will be under pressure.”

In Karachi, the wildly pacy Shoaib talked with restraint. “I know there are a lot of expectations but I am more responsible than before and would not run away from my responsibility of being the spearhead,” PTI quoted him as saying.

Shoaib and captain Inzamam-ul Haq appealed for calm among followers. “I hope the fans take it just as a cricket series,” Shoaib said.

Inzamam told Reuters: “This series is more than just cricket. It is about building bridges between Pakistan and India and promoting peace and fraternity.”

Sourav was not reading too much into the fact that as captain, he will be viewed as an Indian ambassador to Pakistan.

“We are ambassadors wherever we go. I know when it comes to India versus Pakistan things are looked at differently. But for me, it’s nothing different. At the end of the day, it’s a game.”

He refused to agree that the Pakistan attack is superior. “If you talk about sheer pace, they are ahead. But if you think of containing batsmen and taking wickets, they are not.”

The aggression and confidence of the team surfaced again when Wright explained why there is a good chance of winning a series away from home.

“We have started winning Tests abroad, done well in the World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy. We are coming up as a real force. This is a great opportunity for us to create some history,” the coach said.

About Sachin Tendulkar’s fitness, Sourav said: “He has a stiff back, not an injury. He looked okay today.” Sachin had a long session with the bat in the morning.

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