Pakistan are on a high after the reverses against India in their own backyard. Inzamam's men under their new tech-savvy coach Bob Woolmer seems to have brought about a metamorphosis within the side if one is not sounding exaggerating. The team has picked up the threads quite well and discovered the winning habit, amply reflected in their twin wins over India first in the Asia Cup and later in the Videocon Cup in Holland.
Some months back, Pakistan cricket seemed to be on the wane after a spate of trashy performances, let alone their home catastrophe against the men in blue. Hit by dissensions, wranglings within the side, the team wore a disjointed, de-motivated look and never looked like gelling as an unit.
All that is now a thing of the past. Coach Bob Woolmer, who is highly proficient in man management skills, has been able to mould the side in the manner he desires. To expect the Pakistan side to set the thames on fire just because Woolmer has taken over the reins from Javed Miandad, would be unfair and unjust.
Of course, there has never been a question mark about shortage of talent in Pakistan cricket. In fact it was awashed with it; only that, it wasn't channelised properly and probably that's the reason why the prodigious talents Pakistan cricket possess haven't been realised in the desired manner. Coach Bob Woolmer has plenty to look forward to in the coming months, god forbids; controversies don't surface again to haunt them and bring nightmares.
The new poster boy of Pakistan cricket- Shoaib Malik has been a real find for Pakistan. The gambit of coach Woolmer in consultation with the thinktank to push Malik up the order to No. 3 worked like a masterstroke and with it, the team management found another fine option to explore.
By no stretch of imagination, Malik is no slogger who would play the cross-batted shots. He plays within the 'V' to good effect. What's so good about him he uses his feet to a nicety. Be it the seamers or the spinners, he would chip down the track and execute shots flawlessly. The 143 he rattled up against India will be still fresh Indians' minds when they take the field on Sunday.
Lets put this way. Dislodging Malik early on will be the key to India's success for he can turn a match on its head with exploits with the bat, not to forget his handy off-spin. Then there are skipper Inzamam, Youhana, Razzak, Afridi and others that India have to put up with.
To put things in perspective, Indian bowling has to be spot-on. Minus Zaheer and Balaji, our bowling is depleted to some extent although the good form of Pathan, Nehru and Harbhajan would dispel that thought. Agarkar is one bowler, who needs to keep his focus level going for he can be erratic at times.
The Mumbai boy is the senior-most in the bowling department and it's time he takes up the bowling responsibility and not waver about in concentration as he does it on most occasions. For long he been promising much and delivering too little and he in his hearts of hearts should feel he owes a lot to the national side.
Batting sans Tendulkar is still formidable, though the form of Sehwag and Yuvraj would be a cause for concern. Besides Ganguly who has two 90s under his belt, the rest hasn't looked assuring. Dravid Laxman and Kaif have run into some kind of form but still some distance away from their prime form.
The return of form of Sehwag and Yuveraj will be welcomed to the hilt and if the duo strikes it rich with the willow, this Indian team can be redoubtable opponents and can take on probably any side in the world.
As far as playing a specialised keeper is concerned, I reckon that the team braintrust would play safe and ask Rahul Dravid to double up as a keeper. Anyway, rookie Dinesh Karthik has been bundle of energy but his glove work hasn't been something that would inspire confidence from skipper Ganguly.
The Pakistan bowling has been in the pink of health at present. The pair of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami have looked a disciplined lot, a far cry from days when they used to be wayward, in their bid to bowl fast, and in the process spraying the ball over the place. They are doing admirable job considering that their bowling department has been depleted with injuries to seamers Umar Gul and Shabbir Ahmed.
Add to that, the fastish leg-spin of flamboyant Shahid Afridi and the off-spin of Shoiab Malik have been further good tidings for Pakistan. Surely the Indian batters would have their work cut out on Sunday.
All said and done, whoever held its nerves on the day will carry the day. Surely, it's a cricket feast which would whet the appetite of billion fans provided the heaven gods don't play truant to it!
Bangalore, Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) national selection committee chairman Syed Kirmani today gave a vote of confidence to the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly ahead of the mouth-watering India-Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy clash in Edgbaston on Sunday.