The wily old fox Javed Miandad fired the first salvo by taking a dig at Pathan, followed by Anwar. Quite expectedly, the Rawalpindi Express too joined the bandwagon .The Indian camp was not lagging behind with the aggressive skipper himself leading the banter.
Now with the tour finally on, all gates are leading to Karachi for the first of the One-day Internationals. With both the teams having announced their squads for the ODIs, there is little to choose between them. A high-voltage contest is in the offing. Both the teams are evenly matched and needless to say, it will be the mother of all battles.
The present Indian team, astutely led by Sourav Ganguly, is on a roll, after a quite a successful Australian summer. They have the wherewithal to revel on the big stage and it may not be a surprise if they start as favourites for the ODI series. Already it has been dubbed as a contest between the strong Indian batting line-up and the Pakistani bowlers.
Pakistan is trying to cash in on the depleted Indian bowling attack rendered hors de combat by the absence of spin king Anil Kumble and the sleeping giant Ajit Agarkar. However, the return of Zaheer Khan as well as Ashish Nehra (who on his day can be pretty devastating) augurs well for the team.
Pak bowling is said to be the best in the business. However, they will have a tough time against the marauding Indian batters led by the explosive pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Shoaib will have a few scores to settle with Sachin in the wake of the pounding he received at the hands of the little master in the World Cup in South Africa a year ago. He will be ready to fire on all cylinders and Sachin too would relish the challenge of such a battle within a battle, even though he doesn't admit it in open.
Pakistan will have to exploit their bowling arsenal to the maximum. The fact that they have been forced to unearth a rookie paceman Ifthikar Rao as a secret weapon talks as to how much the Pak camp is wary of the famed Indian five, a fact acknowledged even by their captain. There is no substitute for experience as proved by the recall of dashing all-rounder Shahid Afridi and offie Saqlain Mushtaq.
India too is going with the best talent available on form and fitness. Though eyebrows might have been raised over the selection of Ramesh Powar, he has a few tricks up his sleeve and it's high time he got a chance, especially considering the fact that he rocked the cream of Indian batting in last year's Irani trophy finals at Chennai. Moreover, he can use the long handle to good effect and can provide a few lusty blows in the end and maybe he can fit that elusive all-rounder's bill.
This is after such a long time that India is embarking on a foreign tour confidence personified. As Ganguly and his boys trudge the path across the Wagah border, knowing the historic importance of the tour, one can be sure that they will give more than they get. Miandad's last ball six is unlikely to haunt them again.