हिन्दीಕನ್ನಡമലയാളംதமிழ்తెలుగు

India seek to stop Pakistan's winning streak

Published: Friday, November 12, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Kolkata:India and Pakistan clash in a One-day International cricket match here tomorrow with the struggling hosts seeking to not only arrest their sliding fortunes but also prevent their archrivals from recording their fourth consecutive win in the last three months.

The Indians have lost all the three encounters against Pakistan since the Asia Cup in August and will be desperate to make amends in what promises to be a thrilling day-night contest at the majestic Eden Gardens.

A win against their traditional rivals will serve as a huge confidence booster for the beleaguered team ahead of the two-Test series against South Africa.

The star-studded Indian batting line-up was woefully out of sorts in the recent Test series against Australia and all the frontline batsmen would be eager to find their peak form in the match being held as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Although captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said that winning or losing would not matter much, Pakistan clearly enjoy a psychological edge coming into the match and it remains to be seen whether the visitors can handle the pressure of playing in front of hundred thousand people.

The one-off match is assured of its place in history not only because it is being held to mark a momentous occasion, but also because it has enabled Pakistan to tour India after a gap of five years.

The form shown by the Indian batsmen will hold the key to the outcome of the match as the Eden Gardens track was expected to favour the batsmen.

Sachin Tendulkar, who returned to the squad in the Nagpur Test against Australia after a two-month injury lay-off, must be yearning to script a memorable innings and signal his return to vintage form.

The star batsman showed glimpses of his prime form during an attacking half-century in the Mumbai Test. He needs to carry on from there for the sake of his countless admirers here who had raised a strong pitch of protest over a run out decision given against him during the Asian Test championship match between the two sides at the same venue five years ago.

The protests turned so ugly that the game could only be finished -- with Pakistan as winners -- after police emptied the galleries.

Dashing Opener Virender Sehwag, who looked erratic and failed to find his rhythm except against the Aussies in the just concluded Test series, would be keen to play a good knock to give a flying start to the Indian innings.

Rahul Dravid, who of late seems to be returning to form, played well in the Mumbai Test and a good performance on the big day would help him reinforce his 'Mr Dependable' tag.

Skipper Sourav Ganguly, provided he can make the squad after the fitness test, also needs runs from his blade to answer his critics, who have yet again started questioning his batting prowess.

Ganguly, however, had yesterday brushed aside questions on his form saying he was the top scorer in the NatWest and Champions Trophy, with his only failure coming in the Chennai test against Australia.

But scores of 45, 5 and 9 in the three innings of the Test series against Australia, 90 and 0 (Champions Trophy) and 24, 7 and 90 (NatWest Trophy) are hardly princely figures.

His personal form notwithstanding, the Indian skipper has already expressed hope of stopping Pakistan's winning run against his side on his home turf.

"In a One-dayer it depends on how you play on a given day. I hope we play well in the Eden Gardens."

Ganguly has indicated that he could open the innings again, saying, "I have to speak to John Wright in this regard. But I have mostly opened in the One-dayers. It is only after Sehwag came and the way he plays that I went down to the number three spot".

In contrast to the batsmen, the Indian bowlers have done a decent job this season. Despite recurring injuries, which prevented them from operating at full strength, the Indian bowlers have time and again spiritedly defended modest batting scores, at times successfully.

With both spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble likely to make the squad, the two pacers' slot would be a toss up between Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar. Sehwag, Tendulkar and even Ganguly might pitch in as the fifth bowler.

While batting has been India's strength, Pakistan's fame largely rests on their bowling depth. The two speedsters Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami, who both missed the second Test against Sri Lanka recently following injury, would be raring to have a go at the Indian willowers.

The third pacer Abdul Razzaq also looks in fine form. Spinners Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik complete the quota of bowlers likely to make it to the playing eleven.

Pakistan skipper Inzamam, the mainstay in the side's batting, knows his bowlers need to find their rhythm to unsettle the Indians.

"The Indians are tough opponents with a strong batting line up. But my bowlers are in good form and they only need to find their rhythm," he said.

Inzamam, however, said that it could be anybody's game as both the sides were equally strong.

One area where the tourists have a big edge over India is the presence of all-rounders of the ability of Afridi, Malik and Razzaq in their ranks.

The toss could play a vital role in deciding the outcome of the match as the late evening dew is known to cause quite a few problems for the team batting second. In fact, the team batting first has emerged with flying colours on the last few occasions.

Statistically speaking, Pakistan have pocketed each of the three limited over matches they played at the Eden.

In 1987, Salim Malik hit an out-of-the world 72 of only 36 balls to guide Pakistan to victory from what at one time looked like a hopeless situation.

In the Nehru Cup in 1989, thanks to Imran Khan's brilliance, Pakistan again triumphed over India in the round robin league, before piping the West Indies in a thrilling final to claim the championship.

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