| Rameez Raja
Chandigarh: Despite criticism in many quarters, Rameez Raja believes the squad led by Inzamam-ul Haq is balanced, but the advantage is with India.
'We're balanced, but probably lack the firepower and temperament to beat India in the Test series. We definitely start underdogs,' Rameez, a former captain (and chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board) told The Telegraph on Monday evening.
Rameez, a member of the history-authoring side led by Imran Khan in 1986-87, is in India on a TV assignment. For the first Test, though, he is also a guest of the Punjab Cricket Association. His wife and younger son are accompanying him.
'Given what we lack, the strategy is going to be crucial... We must be aggressive and, while batting, the openers will have to ensure a start so that the middle-order isn't under much pressure when spinners come into play,' Rameez pointed out.
He added: 'I wouldn't hesitate to send Asim Kamal at No. 3 and would look at including Shahid Afridi... One session can have a huge impact and somebody like Afridi has it in him to make a difference...'
In Rameez's opinion, the middle-order has the toughest role: 'The opposition may still come back if an opener gets a hundred... However, that becomes difficult when somebody in the middle-order gets a big one...'
Referring to Shoaib Akhtar's absence, he said: 'Shoaib has been letting people down big-time... On paper, he's going to be missed. But, then, if he isn't fit and is a problem child then, perhaps, the less of him the better.'
Rameez continued: 'Let's not forget that the Rana Naved-ul Hasans did an outstanding job in the recent tri-series (in Australia) when Shoaib wasn't around... In fact, Rana is a wonderful example of somebody who has maximised his talent'
That Rana did so well should, in Rameez's view, take some of the pressure off Mohammed Sami. In any case, Sami has to raise his game 'a couple of levels.'
Where the specialist spinners are concerned, Rameez is 'very happy' that Arshad Khan has been recalled (after over four years). Danish Kaneria, though, must look to getting 'figures of five for 75 and not five for 125.'
'I've suggested Kaneria shouldn't over-attack and that he must learn from Shane Warne and Anil Kumble... We don't have one absolute matchwinner, which means everybody has to pitch in... A collective effort, really,' Rameez observed.
Given that leadership could be decisive, he remarked Inzy 'has to make a bold statement' not just by leading from the front but being 'innovative' ' 'Inzy can't afford to be seen as being flat,' is how he put it.
Rameez added: 'Sourav, of course, is more easy with the job... I don't agree with Inzy he's the best, but he's among the finest... Sourav's USP is that, like an Imran Khan, he has been able to identify talent and they haven't let him down.'
Signing off on the Australia-factor, Rameez said: 'Look, even if a team loses, exposure in Australia still helps individuals... They get better, get battle-hardened... The Indians, for example, looked very good in Pakistan (last year) because they came off a tour of Australia...
'Nobody expects Pakistan to beat India in a Test series in India... So, the pressure on Inzy is much less than it was at home... Yet, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in its eating...'