Rawalpindi: With Indian captain Sourav Ganguly willing to lead from the front by opening the innings and Pakistan ready to unleash their pace battery on a green-top wicket, battle-lines were drawn for a cracking contest between the archrivals in the series-deciding third cricket Test beginning in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
The honours are even after Pakistan responded to the innings defeat in Multan with a crushing nine-wicket win in Lahore and it would be a test of nerves in the high-voltage decider which both teams are desperate to win.
Besides pride, also at stake for India is a first-ever Test series triumph in this country and a series win away from home in 11 years. A win will also make Ganguly the most successful Indian captain, edging out Mohammed Azharuddin who has 14 wins to his credit.
The "big motivation" was enough for the Indians to field their best-possible combination, which they announced today for the 50th encounter between the Asian powerhouses. Lahore centurion Yuvraj Singh was retained at the expense of opener Aakash Chopra while left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra replaced Ajit Agarkar.
Ganguly, returning to the squad after an injury layoff which saw him miss the first two Tests, put up a brave front and said although it was not decided who would open the batting with Virender Sehwag, he would don the opener's mantle if required. "Winning a series in Pakistan is a big motivation for us... If we play good cricket the records will take care of themselves," said the Indian captain.
Sword falls on Chopra, opening still 'open'