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'India has a better edge over Pakistan'

Published: Friday, January 30, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Islamabad:Observing that it would be a "challenge" to rein in India during the upcoming series, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan has expressed the hope that his team will even out the visitors' advantagewith some inspired cricket.

"There is no doubt that the Indian team is doing extremely well. They are on a high. We have also done well in Test matches in New Zealand. But I think any rational person would make India favourites, purely on cricketing standards," Khan said in an exclusive interview.

"However, India and Pakistan matches have their own motivation and enthuse certain spirit which is good and evens out India's advantage," he said.

Not one to be "demoralised" by the opposition's strength, Khan, a former diplomat who also accompanied the Pakistan team to India during its tour in 1999, said his side would bank on its strong bowling to outplay the Indians.

"The Indians are playing with spirit in Australia. They have taken the Aussies to this stage of levelling the Tests series. In fact they should have won the series. But we have also returned from New Zealand in highspirit. Also we are playing at home. India's strength is in batting, we have an edge in bowling. It will be a good contest."

Even though the Indian team has come up in cricketing terms, we are not demoralised. In fact, it is a challenge and I think we will rise to meet it," Khan said.

On the simmering controversy over former all-rounder Wasim Akram's assistance to Indian bowlers, Khan said the issue had been "blown out of proportion" and Akram would soon be joining the training camp to train the bowlers for the India series.

"All senior cricketers give juniors tips. It does not mean they are preparing the enemy. Wasim, I am sure, will help our bowlers in the camp. I am sure he will come."

The invitation to Akram as also to the legendary Imran Khan to help out the current crop follows from the belief of PCB that it would be the bowlers who will win matches in the series comprising three Tests and five One-dayers.

While Pakistan would rely heavily on trump card Shoaib Akhtar, Khan was also confident of the other speedster Mohammad Sami coming good in the series beginning in first week of March.

"Shoaib is our main weapon. But when on song, this boy Sami is very good. He took 116 wickets in one County season. He won one match for us in New Zealand while Shoaib won another. Sami is terrific, we should not underestimate him. All he needs is a little fine-tuning."

Asked to analyse the reasons for the recent success of the Indian team, Khan said, "I reckon the capacity of your team not to be complacent and ability to learn professionally how to do better has helped".

Khan said he considered Sachin Tendulkar a master who had perfected his art while others like Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag were also coming of age.

"Tendulkar is a master. There is no room for improvement as far as he is concerned. In bowling, India have young pacemen like Zaheer, Nehra and there is this young kid Pathan who have strengthened the team."

He also felt that the attitude of the Indian team appeared to have made a big difference. "They have this capacity -- to arrive at the international stage and then say we have to move ahead. I think this capacity of giving thatjust little bit of extra takes India to a higher level."

"Also, there is no cut off. A player like Dravid, even after making so many centuries is not satisfied. Even at this stage he is looking upwards. To me this attitude is because of education. This is born of educated minds. Education allows them to absorb and act upon on the advise of their coach and professions. They are truly turning into professionals," Khansaid.

On the contrary, Pakistan, he said, has suffered due to lack of motivation. "Our batsmen make thirties and forties and get out. We need someone who can occupy the crease and bat for a long innings."

The country has failed to produce technically sound batsman because of lack of training at the school level. "We do not produce good batsmen because there are no coaching facilities for young cricketers. Players should be coached at an young age. Their techniques need to be corrected at thatage. You can only improve slightly later," he said.

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