Centurion: The Indian batsmen, on a high after the side's comprehensive win against England, would be hoping to put it across the dreaded Pakistani pace attack when the two sides meet in World Cup Group 'A' match on Saturday. With pace aces like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar up their sleeve, the men in blue face their biggest test as they try to counter the new ball in the first 15 overs of their innings.
That the Indians have high regards for the Pakistani pacemen, particularly Wasim Akram, was aptly expressed by skipper Saurav Ganguly, who termed the awe-inspiring bowler a "magician". "He is a magician, he can actually make the ball dance. Others have their quality but Wasim has so much variety, you can't be sure what he is coming up with next," Ganguly said. Akram, with over 500 One-day wickets under his belt, is in perfect form and wishes to take Pakistan for yet another World Cup triumph, possible only if his team beats India to avoid elimination from the tournament. Indians are back to the venue where Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee of Australia annihilated them a fortnight ago, and Ganguly certainly wants the team to pass the first 15 overs with minimum damage.
Ganguly did not give much weightage to the fact that the Pakistan team had struggled to put a decent total on board in this competition so far. "It doesn't matter tomorrow. It's a high pressure game and intensity will be at high pitch," he said. With the win against England almost taking India to the Super Six stage, Ganguly's men are much more relaxed than they would have been otherwise. "We are as good as through to the next round," Ganguly said, adding "obviously, we would be a lot more relaxed mentally than we would have been otherwise".
As facing the Pakistani pace attack would be a real challenge for senior members of the team, the baptism of the young Turks like Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, who have never faced their arch rivals, will be a keen contest. The clash between aggressive Sehwag and an equally dominant Shoaib could be the highlight of the match. Sehwag relishes the flourish of his bat from the word go, while Shoaib likes to blast at the openers for his other teammates to feed on the terror he commands. With the middle order scoring runs at a snail's pace, India has drawn up a strategy to last the first 15 overs and go for the shots in the final 10 overs.
"We are aware we are losing momentum in the middle of the innings, the team doesn't want it to become a trend in future games," Ganguly said. This strategy might have worked against lesser bowlers but so magnificent are the Pakistan pace trio that taking them on in the final 10 overs might not be the best of strategy. Instead, India would have to look at the middle of its innings when quite a few dot balls are played and scoring takes a back seat.