The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inzy gifts bats, awaits return
- It's more than a series, but Sourav focuses on cricket

Chandigarh, March 7: Where gestures go, captain Inzamam-ul Haq has already made one: this afternoon, he presented Sourav Ganguly with two Pakistani bats.

The Team India supremo, though, is unlikely to reciprocate on the field when the three-Test series for the TVS Cup gets underway in neighbouring Mohali tomorrow.

Notwithstanding the pressure of a big series at home, the Indians are firm favourites. Yet, as Sourav reminded, 'no match is won on paper'.

Inzamam, quite sensibly, agreed his team would have all the chasing to do. Still, he insisted 'jeetne ki koshish rahegi aur hum jeet sakte hain'.

Actually, this is yet another Revival Series (given that Pakistan is on a full tour after six years) and, so, there's the additional baggage of seeking to forge warmer relations.

Sourav acknowledged as much: 'Yes, this is more than a series...' Yet, he hastened to add that the team's focus would exclusively be on the cricket.

Depending on just how many of the around 3,000 visiting Pakistanis turn up at the PCA Stadium ' most have used the Test as an excuse to renew ties with relatives and ancestral places ' to cheer, the Inzamams may feel somewhat at home.

However, cheering alone won't get Pakistan anywhere. As former captain Aamer Sohail told The Telegraph: 'It's going to be tough for our boys to make an impression... The Indians' experience is a huge factor...'

The experience-count of the Indian XI (as of tonight) reads a handsome and intimidating 531 Tests. As for Pakistan's, it will either be 302 if Taufeeq Umar opens with Salman Butt or 294 if Yasir Hameed is picked instead of Umar.

Given that nerves are going to come into play, the team with more experience will find the demands less overwhelming.

Unusually for a home Test, the Indians have opted for a 3-1 attack, with Anil Kumble ' who finished 2004 as the year's most successful bowler ' the sole specialist spinner.

One assumes a double role awaits Virender Sehwag. Possibly, Sachin Tendulkar (who, after years, won't have the national flag on his helmet) as well.

Sachin, by the way, needs one century to pull ahead of Sunil Gavaskar's 34. Typically, he declined to speak about being on the threshold of the mother of all records. 'Please, no comments,' the maestro requested after another intense workout.

The composition of the XI has been wholly influenced by the wicket's green look. Indeed, like India, the visitors have also decided on fielding one specialist spinner ' leggie Danish Kaneria.

John Wright offers advice to Virender Sehwag at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Monday (AFP)

It's a horses for courses strategy.

Three of the five Tests in Mohali have ended in draws but, even then, the new ball bowlers have had moments of glory. The juice-element, therefore, simply can't be discounted.

With both XIs having three seamers, the captain winning the toss is going to be tempted to field. Conventional wisdom in these parts, though, is to bat first and score big.

For a change, then, neither Sourav nor Inzamam would mind losing out on the spin of coin (this time, a specially minted gold one).

If anybody has forgotten, the last series was won 2-1 by Team India. That was almost a year ago, with the decider in Rawalpindi ending in a rout for the hosts.

Incidentally, by this afternoon, all but around 1,000 of the tickets returned by the Pakistan Cricket Board had been sold out.

A full house, something of an achievement for a Test, is a certainty.


INDIA (as of Monday night): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji.

PAKISTAN: Salman Butt, Taufeeq Umar/Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Danish Kaneria, Rana Navedul Hasan, Mohammed Sami.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Darryl Hair. TV: K.Hariharan.

Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Match starts: 10.00 am.

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