The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'No. 2' motivation for India
- Zaheer for Harbhajan a strong possibility; pak make two changes

Bangalore: The last occasion an overseas cricketer made his 100th Test appearance, his team won big. One is, of course, talking of Glenn McGrath and Australia in Nagpur five months ago.

Given Team India's emphatic win at the Eden the other afternoon, that about is the only comforting thought for Inzamam-ul Haq as he readies for his own 100th, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, on Thursday.

The one other feel-good element could be that the Indians were hammered in their last Test here, the 2004-05 season-launching one featuring Australia. This Pakistan side, however, isn't anywhere close to being like the champions.

Inzamam's boys aren't even in the same bracket as the 1987 outfit captained by Imran Khan, which pulled off a nail-biting victory at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and went home history-authoring warriors.

So, that result isn't exactly going to provide all the inspiration.

The wicket then, incidentally, was a potential minefield from the beginning and the Iqbal Qasim-Tauseef Ahmed pair made the most... Eighteen years on, it has been rolled a million times and the 'binding' appears perfect.

There was some grass on Tuesday, but little was seen on the eve of the third and final Test for the TVS Cup.

India can't lose this series, but a 2-0 scoreline will take Sourav Ganguly's team to a never-before high of No. 2 in the ICC rankings. The hosts do have something big to achieve over the next five days.

Inzamam (who is going to be felicitated by the Pakistan Cricket Board and the staging association) has vowed his side will be 'aggressive' and 'positive.' It's to be seen, though, how much of that is on display.

As reported in these columns on Wednesday, the visitors are making two changes: Yasir Hameed is going to open with Shahid Afridi and Arshad Khan's off-spin will complement Danish Kaneria's googlies.

Out are the unconvincing Taufeeq Umar and pedestrian Mohammed Khalil.

The Indians, one understands, are in somewhat of a dilemma ' all because Mr Chris Broad has again reported Harbhajan Singh's doosra to his employers, the ICC.

According to The Telegraph's sources, the thinktank is actively considering a 3-1 attack and omitting Harbhajan, purely as a horses-for-courses move. Yet, the gentlemen are wary everybody else's interpretation may well be otherwise.

Moreover, it could add to Harbhajan's pressures...

'The decision won't be taken in a hurry... Zaheer Khan has a good chance of coming back, especially as the weather can change dramatically. However, dropping Harbhajan isn't such an open-and-shut issue... It's another matter he could indeed be out,' a source revealed rather late at night.

Harbhajan, it may be recalled, was omitted in the series-starting Mohali Test. The visitors aren't concerned about him, though, and Inzamam said so by explaining the 'damage' was being done by Anil Kumble.

India's most successful bowler has already collected 53 wickets in eight Tests and, clearly, has a psychological edge over. His brand of aggression (and passion) has made it more pronounced.

Even as 'war' breaks out in a few hours, some are going to fight their private battles. Sourav, for example, will be looking to beat the 'enemy' within and reestablish himself as a premier batsman.

The Team India captain's last Test century was in Brisbane, 16 months ago, and the time has come to silence those who have made a business of criticising him. Obviously, being the country's most successful captain isn't enough.

'I've worked very hard (for this Test)... I've tried to just focus on what I need to do as a batsman... Hopefully, I'm going to get it right,' Sourav remarked, sounding more relaxed than he has been over the last fortnight.

One hopes so too.


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

PAKISTAN: Yasir Hameed, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Mohammed Sami, Arshad Khan, Danish Kaneria.

Umpires: Simon Taufel, Billy Bowden. TV: I. Shivram.

Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Match starts: 10 am.

Footnote: It was unbearably hot for much of the day, but parts of the city received light rain on Wednesday evening. The forecast hasn't ruled out 'thundershowers' late on Day I and II.

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