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Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- This is what Indo-Pak cricket is all about

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 20:17 [IST]
 
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Lahore:Sourav Ganguly's Indians will find full-throated support from the stands when they attempt to salvage the One-day series against Pakistan in a do-or-die clash in Lahore.

Some 4,500 Indian fans, who have travelled by road, rail and air, will be at hand to witness the last two day-night games at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore over the next four days.

Ganguly's men, who trail 1-2 in the five-match series, must win Sunday's fourth match under lights to prevent Wednesday's last game from being a formality.

India will also play three Test matches on their first full tour of Pakistan since 1989, but fans from across the border can't wait for Sunday's match to begin at 2:00 pm (0900 GMT).

"We have not come here to see India lose," said Delhi college student Rima Verma, who flew into this eastern city on Thursday with a group of friends to watch the matches.

However it's not all cricket for many.

"Cricket is secondary, I am here to make friends in Pakistan and enjoy their traditional hospitality," said Satwinder Singh, a motor car spare parts dealer from Delhi's historic Chandni Chowk area.

"But you can be rest assured we will all be at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday and will not hide our support for Sachin Tendulkar and company."

For Mumbai-based executive Kumar Dhananjay, part of a tour group, his most memorable moments in the three One-dayers so far have come off the field.

"The cheers from the Karachi fans after India won the first match and the standing ovation around the Rawalpindi stadium for Tendulkar when he reached his century brought tears to my eyes," he said.

"This is what sport is all about, this is what India-Pakistan cricket is all about."

Few care to remember the unfortunate incidents during India's last Test series in Lahore almost 15 years ago, when a fan rushed to the field at Karachi and lunged at the then Indian captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

The cricket tour which was okayed by the Indian Government following a thaw in diplomatic relations with the warring neighbours, has proved to be a boon for the cash-strappped tourism industry in Lahore.

Five-star deluxe hotels are charging an exorbitant 20,000 rupees (330 dollars) a day, up from the usual 100 to 120 dollars, while smaller hotels have also hiked their rates from 30 dollars to 150 dollars.

The Indian team camp, meanwhile, was busy devising plans to stop the rival batsmen with their limited attack that is missing four injured frontline bowlers, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra.

"It's five actually," said Ganguly. "We had (Javagal) Srinath at the World Cup but he has now retired. And Zaheer Khan is struggling to find his rhythm after a three-month lay-off due to injury. The bowlers we have here have failed to get their act together. The pacers have to be more aggressive. Where are the bouncers and yorkers to unsettle the batsmen?" Ganguly asked.

Coach John Wright, however, exuded more confidence than the captain.

"Were still not out of the series," he said. "Pakistan surely have the advantage but we cant just lose hope. This is turning out to be a very close series. We have to be clinical and play well under pressure. Our goal will be to live till the last game."

Pakistan's captain Inzamam-ul Haq was confident of clinching the series.

"I think we will definitely win one out of the last two games," he said. "But the Indians have played well in the series and we are not taking anything for granted."

If India's practice match in Lahore on March 10 is any indication - Pakistan's 'A' team overhauled the tourists' mammoth 335 for six with four overs to spare - a high-scoring thriller is on the cards on Sunday.

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