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Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Bowling worries continue to haunt India

Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 0:33 [IST]
 
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Lahore:The Indians will be under pressure to level the series when they take on Pakistan in Lahore on Sunday, their bowling worries still dogging them and some of their famed batsmen struggling, a fact the team is reluctant to admit.

Down 1-2 in the five-match series after their defeat in the third One-day International at Peshawar on Saturday, the Indians were focussing on their bowling shortcomings with coach John Wright saying the bowling has to be "more clinical".

The team came to this country without two of its top bowlers, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, and the spearhead of the opening attack Zaheer Khan recovering from injuries sustained in Australia. Ashish Nehra was again grounded by injuries after bowling splendidly in the first two matches.

Zaheer is back but struggling. That has left the bowling attack in the inexperienced hands of combative Irfan Pathan, newcomer L Balaji and debutant Romesh Powar. Pathan bowled well at Peshawar when he was finally given an opportunity, Balaji did not give away too many runs and gutsy Powar was given no more than four overs by Sourav Ganguly.

The bowling attack is expected to remain unchanged for Sunday's match with the latest recruit, medium-pacer Amit Bhandari, unlikely to find a place.

The same bowlers who did the duty at Peshawar will now be asked to be more clinical on what is expected to be a batting paradise at the Gadaffi Stadium where the Indians amassed 335 runs and yet lost to a Pakistani team in the tour opener ten days ago.

The Indians would do well to focus the searchlight on their batting also. That splendid wrist artiste VVS Laxman, who weeks ago was belting away the Australian bowlers, has failed in both the second and third One-dayers, having missed the first because of a stiff knee. Skipper Sourav Ganguly has not touched 50 yet in the tour opener and the three One-dayers.

Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh have all failed twice in the three One-day Internationals. Tendulkar scored a brilliant hundred at Rawalpindi but that came in the middle of his failures at Karachi and Peshawar. Rahul Dravid has been more consistent with innings of 99, 36 and 33.

Yet, everyone is talking about bowling shortcomings. The Indians have no doubt put up big scores in the first two matches but the less famed and inexperienced Pakistani batting has matched them. It is obvious that the Indian batting is capable of scoring more runs and more consistently given the nature of the tracks in Pakistan to which the wicket at Peshawar was an exception.

Wright is also worried about the fact that his players were not able to finish off the tight games. "We have not been able to finish off the tight matches. We have done that in the past, but somehow it has not been clicking here."

But the coach believed that his players were capable of levelling the series and warned the home team not to take anything for granted in the remaining two matches.

"The series is not over by any means. We will first look to level the series and then go into the final with a positive frame of mind," Wright said. The Pakistani camp is an upbeat mood having won two matches in a row and coach Javed Miandad wants his players to keep the momentum going in the crucial match, which would help them clinch the series.

The hosts, despite their inexperienced batting line up, have capitalised on the home conditions and have managed to chase the big totals successfully. The famed Pakistani bowling attack, comprising Akhtar, Mohammad Sami and Shabbir Ahmed, worked up a good pace in the last match at Peshawar on a track which supported the bowlers, particularly in the morning session.

Shabbir ripped through the top order Indian batting in the last match but it remains to be seen whether the Pakistani speedsters can make much of an impact at the Gadaffi track, which is again expected to favour the batsmen.

The home team has retained the same squad for the remaining two matches and it is unlikely that the team management would fiddle with the winning combination in the double-header.

Teams (from):

India: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Romesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, L Balaji, Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik, Hemang Badani, Parthiv Patel, Amit Bhandari.

Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Yasir Hameed, Shahid Afridi, Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzak, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed, Moin Khan, Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Taufiq Umer, Imran Farhat.

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