The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin looks at sunny sky & grins

Calcutta, March 15: Being the superstitious type, Sourav Ganguly would probably have been happier had the second Test begun today instead of tomorrow.

After all, March 15 remains the most memorable day in his five years-plus as captain: Back in 2001, it marked the end of Australia's all-conquering run, at the Eden.

Equally significant, it heralded the Team India era.

Yet, after Mohali (where Pakistan forced an amazing draw), Sourav perhaps also realises extraneous elements aren't going to count for much in the series's most crucial Test.

Falling in arrears with just one Test to go is any captain's nightmare and, so, the series's best cricket may be on view here.

Actually, had Islamabad not deemed it politically incorrect to play in Ahmedabad, Calcutta wouldn't have hosted Inzamam-ul Haq and his team.

Now, the Eden should see Sachin Tendulkar stroll into the 10,000 Test runs' club (he is 27 short). Moreover, if destiny wills, the record-authoring 35th hundred, too, could be posted.

Sachin, typically, is saying little. 'The weather (today) has been good and' he responded, laughing, when The Telegraph sought a comment.

After falling for 94 in Mohali, though, he was more generous with words: 'Hopefully, I'll get it (35th hundred) at the Eden'

Of course, Sachin's body language this afternoon suggested he was relaxed and not burdened by the expectations of a billion.

The wicket, by the way, had less grass than yesterday but the Team India thinktank remained undecided on whether to retain the 3-1 combination or bring back Harbhajan Singh and drop Zaheer Khan.

'It's going to be the captain's call' But, first, he has to see how the wicket looks in the morning,' said John Wright, almost certain not to continue beyond this season.

There's no uncertainty in the Pakistan camp and the XI will see two changes ' Mohammed Khalil for the injured Rana Naved-ul Hasan and, in a potentially exciting move, Shahid Afridi for Salman Butt.

The dashing Afridi's recall is a gamble as his game has that hit-or-miss flavour. The team management, however, is convinced he can be 'very useful.'

Additionally, when needed, Afridi is going to bowl in tandem with Danish Kaneria, who is already on the road to bigger things.

That Butt has been dropped illustrates that sentiment has no place in the Inzamam-Bob Woolmer regime.

The youngster, it may be recalled, scored a brilliant unbeaten 108 in Pakistan's last appearance here, in the Platinum Jubilee ODI four months ago.

Pakistan won that match as also the explosive Asian Test Championship face-off in February 1999. Well, all this encouraged Inzamam to talk of a 'good record' at the Eden.

The past, though, has limited value.

Postscript: It isn't a controversy in the making, but Sourav didn't quite agree with Wright's observation (on Monday) that the killer instinct was missing'.

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