Dubai: India will have the edge over its traditional rivals Pakistan in the upcoming home series, though Shoaib Akhtar can become a thorn in the flesh for India if he gets his 'rhythm and swing' right, believes former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram.
The Sultan of Swing said, ''Indians are favourites in India as it is very difficult to get them out on those wickets. Shoaib Akhtar's return to the Pakistan side may have an impact if he can get his rhythm and swing.''
Akram, gives fifty-fifty chance to both the teams in the one-day series, but tilts the balance immensely in favour of India in the longer version of the game.
''In the one-day series, both the teams will be evenly balanced.
But in the Test series the Indians could be far ahead of Pakistan.'' The 41-year-old Akram, considered by many as the best left arm bowler ever to play the game, felt that the absence of Inzamam-ul Haq will be an important factor in this series.
''The vacuum created by Inzamam will be felt greatly during the Indian series. The middle order will feel the pressure of his absence, especially on those flat wickets,'' he said.
The left arm speedster also said it would be interesting to see two young rival team captains who will go all out to prove themselves during the India-Pakistan series.
''Both (Shoaib) Malik and (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni have proved to be quick learners of the game. There will be a lot of pressure on Malik in India. Apart from playing good cricket, he will also have to handle Indian media, and that could put extra pressure on him,'' he was quoted as saying by the Gulf News.
About Irfan Pathan, Akram said, ''Pathan is now bowling well. In fact, every second ball that he bowled against Australia was a leg break. But that was on Indian wickets, on Australian wickets he might suffer. He needs to concentrate more on his swing and improve it.''
Dismissing the rebel cricket series in India, Akram said, ''Rebel league will not do well because most of the retired players will feature in it.''
Akram revealed that he 'hated' his bowling partner Waqar Younis during their playing days.
''We hated each other so much that we were not even on talking terms, both on and off the field, but the fact is that Pakistan benefited from our rivalry,'' remarked Akram.
Their rivalry was so intense that ''every time Waqar took wickets, I too would get charged up to do the same,'' Akram revealed, while adding that it were the opponents who actually suffered from their rivalry. Age seemed to have mellowed down Akram who admitted that they were good friends now.
Akram went on take 916 wickets from Test and one-day matches while Younis had 789 wickets from both forms of the game.
The 1993 Wisden Cricketer of the Year, was all praise for Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson. ''Lawson is doing a good job. When I met the players a few weeks ago, they seemed happy with their progress.''
When asked if all-rounder Abdur Razzaq was treated shabbily by the Pakistan selectors? Akram remarked, ''Pakistan needed him as a bowler who can bat and not as a batsman who can bowl. But his bowling form had slipped. I hear that he has come back from his retirement, but Razzaq should be selected only if he bowls well in first class cricket.''