The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'Every series begins 50-50'
- Bob Woolmer prepares for mind games ahead

Lahore: Bob Woolmer had just finished breakfast and begun reading Robert Windsor's The Human Mind when one popped into his ('compact... not luxurious') room at the beautifully laid out National Cricket Academy, a stone's throw from the Gaddafi.

Woolmer has chosen his latest read with care: Mind games will have a distinct bearing on the forthcoming India versus Pakistan engagements ' three Tests and six ODIs.

'It seems fascinating... I'm going to have a fresh insight by the time I'm through with it,' the coach told The Telegraph on Tuesday, smiling, suggesting something had already made his mind tick.

Woolmer's preparation, though, isn't limited to Windsor's book... In fact, at his behest, computer analysts at the Academy are working with around 30 video cassettes of the two Test series' (Australia, South Africa) hosted by India this season.

Their brief isn't ambiguous.

However, Woolmer didn't quite agree that the tour of India ' because of a hundred reasons ' will be his toughest assignment since replacing the temperamental Javed Miandad last June.

'The cricket can't be tougher than it was in Australia only recently... But, yes, I understand the political element and the high level of passion is going to impart a unique flavour, making the challenge different,' he said.

While the Yousuf Youhanas have acknowledged India start favourites, Woolmer maintained it's '50-50.'

'I believe every series begins 50-50... Thereafter, it's all about trying to gain the ascendancy... In any case, that India lost to Australia not many months ago proves they aren't impregnable (at home)... For us, mentally, that result is a plus,' he observed.

Woolmer, though, conceded Sachin Tendulkar's availability is a factor: 'We'll be targeting all players, but Sachin regaining fitness isn't just another happening... Of course, we can't allow that to affect us... We've got to deal with it.'

He added: 'Our bowlers, I reckon, have to be patient with Sachin... There are ways to get him out and we do know he has come off a two-month break.'

[Sachin returned to first-class cricket on Tuesday itself.]

Asked if there was a formula for beating India at home, Woolmer laughed: 'Holds true everywhere ' doing the basics better than the opposition... For example, it's no secret that big runs on the board impacts heavily on the result.'

Having toured India both as a player and coach, the Kanpur-born Woolmer expects the pitches to turn prodigiously. 'We can't control that... So, we must adapt to whatever is offered,' he remarked...

Incidentally, seeing wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal practice on one of the flatter surfaces at the Academy, Woolmer made him shift to what appeared a minefield. 'You know what to get ready for,' he quipped as Akmal made a series of excellent collections.

Meanwhile, with most players busy with the Patron's Trophy, the India-bound Test squad is only having a conditioning-of-the-mind camp here, on February 26-27.

Inzamam-ul Haq and the rest leave for New Delhi on February 28...

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