The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India out to beat the final hurdle
- ‘Sugar-free’ Shoaib ready to go for the kill

Lahore: Shoaib Akhtar’s “sugar level” is a cause for concern. The fast bowler has often been troubled by bouts of dizziness on the field and that has kept the whole of Pakistan worried.

It happened on Sunday during his second spell as Shoaib was forced to lie prostrate on the ground for a few minutes before the team doctor attended on him. It upset his rhythm and the Indians clawed back into the match.

The pressure of carrying the expectations of a nation have started to take its toll. “I have to keep taking glucose during matches. My sugar level goes down and that leads to the dizziness,” Shoaib told The Telegraph after nets on Wednesday.

Fine now, Shoaib is getting ready for the kill. He doesn’t bowl at full pace to his batsmen during practice and it was no different on Tuesday.

He appeared relaxed but aware of the responsibilities ahead. He dismissed Sunday’s showing as a bad day in office and is, instead, focussing on making the days ahead good.

“A good day will come,” Shoaib murmured, knowing well that may not necessarily be on Wednesday. He is prepared for the worst as the ‘final’ will not mean the end of the road. The Test series is round the corner.

Shoaib and Pakistan are banking on India’s dismal record in the finals. In the last 12 months, India have lost four finals and all to Australia.

“We lost the finals to the world champs,” Rahul Dravid countered. “But the fact that we reached the finals in so many tournaments is a positive sign.”

The pressure factor becomes crucial in such situations. “Pressure will be same for both teams. But that will not stop us from playing attacking cricket,” Yusuf Youhana promised.

Dravid was more analytical. “The pressure will be on everyone. If you look at India’s performances in the finals, we didn’t perform well as a team. A lot of us didn’t do well. There’s nothing wrong with attitude, it’s just that we didn’t perform… Sachin gets more attention if he fails because he is high profile.”

The Indian vice-captain said there were no illusions in the side that they were the “overwhelming favourites” for the ‘final’ after Sunday’s showing. “We haven’t even discussed it in team meetings. The series has witnessed some close matches and it will once again go down to the wire,” he said.

Dravid, however, stressed that “winning the series” was top priority. “We will succeed if we play well, it’s as simple as that.”

The pitch will be different from the one that was used on Sunday. But that will not stop the flow of runs as its nature will remain the same.

The Indian gameplan will be to stop Inzamam-ul Haq early. The Pakistan skipper has struck two centuries — though Pakistan lost both those games — and the Indians will be desperate to deny him another big score. The visitors plan to do that by having more men inside the circle and thereby force him to go for risky shots.

The Pakistan brainstrust is toying with the idea of bringing in Taufeeq Umar for Shahid Afridi, who failed as an opener in the last two games.

The great teamman that he is, Sourav has always been able to inspire confidence and the feel-good factor in his players. Mohammed Kaif has been the latest beneficiary.

The form of the skipper and V.V.S. Laxman have been the talking point. Laxman’s footwork has been a problem as he has tried to play from his crease while Sourav has failed to utilise the good starts. A lot will depend on how Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag set the ball rolling.

The Indian bowling, in an unchanged team, will again come under the scanner. Murali Kartik delivered the goods in the fourth ODI, and so did Zaheer Khan, but the Indians have been too generous in the last 10 overs.

Zaheer’s coming in at one-change has been a “strategic and tactical decision,” Dravid informed. “It works best for us that way. It gives us a good chance to bowl well.” Well, if it works on the day it matters most, tackling the Shoaibs won’t be tough.


INDIA:Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan.

PAKISTAN (likely): Yasir Hameed, Shahid Afridi/Taufeeq Umar, Yusuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Moin Khan, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Sami, Shabbir Ahmed.

Umpires: David Shepherd and Nadeem Ghauri.

Match timings (IST): 2.30 pm to 6 pm, 6.40 pm till end of play.

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