Multan: If security concerns are upstaging the build-up to Thursday’s fourth ODI, the Indians are not feeling it. The happenings in Lahore on Tuesday have not left the players unduly concerned and whispers of a trade bandh and demonstrations here on match day have failed to dampen their spirits.
Senior IPS officer Ranbir Singh Krishnia, accompanying Team India on this tour, is in constant touch with local police officers and is satisfied with the additional security. Manager Raj Singh Dungarpur has been given full powers to deal with any eventuality after he spoke to Board president Sharad Pawar on Wednesday. The Pakistan Cricket Board has also assured Dungarpur support. The authorities, though, are confident nothing untoward will happen.
The home team, however, is feeling the heat. Pakistan have still not come out of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni inflicted trauma at the Gaddafi on Monday. More than 36 hours after the ordeal, Inzamam-ul Haq was struggling to come to terms with what went wrong on that fateful evening. He is trying to seek solace in the fact that it was “an extraordinary innings” and such things “don’t happen everyday”.
Barely 24 hours before the penultimate match of the Hutch Cup, the Pakistan captain in his hometown wasn’t his usual self. He seemed to be bogged down by the weight of further injury worries.
If the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi were not enough, Umar Gul has a side strain while Mohammed Sami is down with toothache. The already weakened attack will be further hit if Gul doesn’t pass a fitness test in the morning.
The Indians are trying to find ways to deal with the bowlers’ profligacy. Greg Chappell spent time with his frontline seamers in an effort to improve their line by making them bowl to specific targets and within a marked channel.
The Indians, 2-1 up in the series, do not intend putting extra pressure on themselves by dwelling on the fact that they can wrap it up here. “We know we need to play good allround cricket on any of the remaining two days,” Rahul Dravid said.
“It does give us confidence but Pakistan are a good side. We are not trying to focus on the result but on our preparations and planning. If the result is achieved, it is welcome. We’ve been playing good cricket irrespective of whether we are chasing or setting a target. We’re confident we can try and execute our plans, ” the captain added.
The good news for India is that Ajit Agarkar bowled without any trouble at nets. If he doesn’t wake up with stiffness, the XI that played in Lahore will be retained. Ramesh Powar or Zaheer Khan will then be the super sub.
Dravid once again stressed on the need to have a flexible batting order while retaining Sachin Tendulkar at the top. “One of the features of a champion is that he never allows pressure to affect him. Sachin has proved that he is still the best.”
Pakistan’s problems don’t end with fitness. Mohammed Yousuf’s lack of runs is a concern. Despite suggestions in some quarters to open with Imran Farhat, it is likely that Kamran Akmal will continue with Salman Butt. Faisal Iqbal will then make the side.
Inzamam was seeking inspiration from the series victory in India when they came back from being 0-2 down. “We almost have the same team that had won then. There should be no reason why we cannot repeat the same show,” he said.
Inzamam predicted a score around 260/270 will be enough on the wicket which promises to help pacers. “It’s not a 300-plus wicket,” he said.
INDIA (likely): Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth. Super sub: Ramesh Powar/Zaheer Khan.
PAKISTAN (likely): Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat/Faisal Iqbal, Mohammed Yousuf, Inzamam-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Rana Naved-ul Hasan/ Umar Gul, Mohammed Sami, Mohammed Asif. Super sub: Arshad Khan.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Asad Rauf.
TV: Zameer Haider.
Match starts 11.30 am (IST).