Kaneria prepares to assume mantle of striker

Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Pakistan leg spinner Danish Kaneria will fulfil a childhood dream when he plays the first Test against England at Lord's on Thursday.

At 25, Kaneria remains crucial to Pakistan's hopes of maintaining their proud record in England, where they have not lost a series since 1982.

With 53 wickets in his last 10 overseas Tests and 84 victims in his last 18 matches, he is certain to do the bulk of the bowling in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar, who is recovering from an ankle injury, and with the fitness problems faced by paceman Rana Naved.

Only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan after wicketkeeper Anil Dalpat, Kaneria told Reuters before leaving for England that he was relishing the challenge.

''I have bowled a lot in the last two years. So that is not a problem with me. My fingers can take the load. But I desperately want to do well on the English pitches,'' he said.

Kaneria, who has followed in the footsteps of successful leg spinners Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed, said playing his first Test at Lord's was a dream come true.

''It has always been my ambition to play a Test at Lord's and do well there. My second target is to play in the one-day series and prove to everyone I can also be good in that cricket.'' Unlike Qadir and Mushtaq, who bowled a lot in One-day matches, Kaneria has struggled in the abbreviated form of the game. He attributes his relatively modest form to inconsistent selection.

While Qadir finished with 132 One-day wickets and Mushtaq, who is still spinning away for Sussex, had 161 One-day wickets, Kaneria has taken just 12 One-day wickets in 16 games, a contrast with his impressive 156 wickets in 36 Tests.

''I see the England tour as the stepping stone to playing in next year's World Cup. All the other great spinners like (Shane) Warne, (Anil) Kumble, (Muttiah) Muralitharan have done well in the World Cup. I want to be recognised as a bowler who could do well in both forms,'' he said.

Skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq has placed a lot of faith in Kaneria even though he has hinted that, given the injuries to Akhtar and Naved, Mushtaq might get a recall to strengthen the bowling.

''Mushtaq is an option as he is doing well for Sussex but Kaneria remains our first-choice spinner. He has improved a lot in the last two years and won us Tests,'' Inzamam said.

Kaneria has bowled a great deal in England during two seasons with Essex who have offered him a new contract for 2007.

''My experience of bowling in England is you just keep pegging away on a good line and length and the batsmen will make the mistakes,'' Kaneria said.

England lost Tests at Multan and Lahore when they toured Pakistan last winter and twice Kaneria took four wickets.

''I waited patiently and they made the mistakes.'' Kaneria is already looking forward to renewing battle with Kevin Pietersen. ''He is their most dangerous player. He can take you apart very quickly. His is going to be the most valuable wicket for me.

Kaneria will have to be careful with his habits of running on to the danger area and of riling the opposition with his aggressive appealing.

''The one problem with him is he tends to lose concentration when things don't go his way,'' warned former Pakistan spinner and selector, Iqbal Qasim.

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