India confident of succeeding in Tests in Pak

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 20:17 [IST]
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Multan:India are confident of re-writing history and succeeding where their predecessors failed when the long-awaited Test series against Pakistan opens in Multan on Sunday. India have never won a Test match in Pakistan on five previous tours comprising 20 Tests. The hosts won five while the rest were drawn.

But the Indians, on their first full tour of the neighbours since 1989, showed they were unspoilt by history by winning their first-ever One-day series in Pakistan earlier this week.

Captain Sourav Ganguly, who is unlikely to play in Sunday's first Test due to a back injury, said the One-day win had left his team on a high for the key contests ahead. "One milestone has been achieved, we are ready for the other," said Ganguly. "We are totally focussed on winning the Tests as well."

Ganguly, who hurt his lower back during Wednesday's final One-dayer in Lahore, said he was still in considerable pain even though MRI scans did not reveal any serious damage.

"It will be a miracle if I am able to play the first Test, but I should definitely be fit for the other two matches in Lahore and Rawalpindi." Vice-captain Rahul Dravid will lead India in Ganguly's absence.

The thrilling One-day series, where India fought back from 1-2 to win the last two games, whet the appetite for what should be an equally rivetting contest between India's accomplished batting and Pakistan's fiery bowling.

Pakistan, desperate to make amends, have chosen five fast bowlers in the 16-man Test squad to unleash on the rivals in a bid to make a winning start on captain Inzamam-ul- Haq's home ground.

Recalled seamer Umar Gul will join Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed and Abdul Razzaq in one of the most potent fast bowling attacks in world cricket. The spin back-up is in the hands of seasoned off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, leggie Danish Kaneria and another off-break bowler Shoaib Malik.

"Bowlers win Test matches and we have plenty to choose from," Inzamam said. "We will be on the offensive from the start."

Even without Ganguly, India have matching firepower in star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman and Virender Sehwag, backed by doughty opener Akash Chopra and left-hander Yuvraj Singh.

Tendulkar, who made his Test debut during the previous series in Pakistan almost 15 years ago, is the only player from either side to experience an India-Pakistan Test match on Pakistani soil.

India have been bolstered by the return of frontline bowlers, seamer Ajit Agarkar and leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who missed the One-dayers with injuries. Neither has played a first-class match since January 6, when the fourth and final Test against Australia ended in Sydney, but the team welcomed the duo back with open arms.

"Ajit and Anil are two of our main bowlers and very experienced in Test cricket," manager Ratnakar Shetty said. "We feel more comfortable with them around."

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