Islamabad: Touring Pakistan is not just a cultural and social learning experience off the field. For the Indian players, it is a constant education on the field as well.
As the dust settles on the controversy surrounding Inzamam-ul Haq’s ‘obstructing the field’ dismissal in Peshawar, the Indians seem to explore ways and means to restrict the profligacy of the Pakistan batsmen. The bowling, that has seemed so juvenile and predictable, is under the scanner yet again.
Greg Chappell, though, defended his bowlers. “The wicket favoured batsmen and the outfield was small in the first one-dayer' The pressure will now be on the bowlers to deliver' They realise they need to improve. But I think all bowlers did a reasonable job under the conditions,” the coach, who is still not fully fit following a throat infection but was present at practice, explained.
The Indian coach is keeping his fingers crossed. “I am not good at predicting scores. The pitch is drier than the one in Peshawar. It would neither help the pacers much nor would spin a great deal,” was Chappell’s opinion. Inzamam was forthright in his views. “I don’t see a tall-scoring match ' The batsmen may have to graft on this sort of surface.”
As Dravid said on Thursday, the bowlers concentrated on practising at different targets during nets in the evening. It was learnt that Indians are likely to go in with a four-pronged bowling attack.
As expected, Murali Kartik will sit out. Suresh Raina will be included with off-spinner Ramesh Powar as the super sub. Rudra Pratap Singh’s inclusion was discussed, but the idea was scrapped since it would have meant playing with three left-arm pacers. Sreesanth, who practised on Friday, is feeling “much better”.
Chappell felt it was a “good opportunity” for Powar and would help a long way in deciding his pool of players. The super sub concept, he felt, was “challenging and interesting”, though, having the option of choosing the same after the toss was desirable.
Pakistan will have to do without Shoaib Akhtar again. The fast bowler, who had a recurrence of the knee injury at nets Thursday, did not practice Friday. “Shoaib is not fit' He will not play here. We will assess him in Lahore before deciding anything,” remarked Inzamam. Pakistan may include allrounder Yasir Arafat for Umar Gul.
The home captain offered “no comments” to his Peshawar dismissal after being spoken to by Match Referee Chris Broad and said the boys were “mentally more tougher now” having chased 300-plus scores successfully on a few occasions. “It has increased their confidence level,” he said.
Shoaib available or not, Chappell believes playing Pakistan is one the greatest challenges for them in the lead-up to Mission 2007. “Pakistan probably are second or third among the one-day sides now. It’s a great challenge to play them' The challenge is ideal because we need to assess our strengths and weaknesses against the best. Ours is an emerging side.
“The performance has been pretty positive. We’re looking at each game as a journey towards 2007. We are on our toes and realise that we need to win some of the games as well.”
Chappell felt the four-day break has come as a boost. “The gap was a big plus. It has given the guys the opportunity to get their enthusiasm back' The bowlers, too, have got enough rest.”
India had lost by 12 runs the last time the two played a one-dayer here, despite Sachin getting 141. Chappell is hopeful the Indians can draw level the Hutch Cup here. “We’re keen to win. The spirit is excellent and the preparations have gone well. We’re hoping to improve on our performance.”
INDIA (likely): Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth. Super sub: Ramesh Powar.
PAKISTAN (likely): Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Mohammed Yousuf, Inzamam-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Yasir Arafat, Mohammed Asif. Super sub: Arshad Khan.
Umpires: Simon Taufel, Asad Rauf.
TV: Sameer Haider.
Match starts 10 am (IST).