Pressure builds ahead of India-Pakistan clash

Published: Saturday, November 3, 2007, 18:34 [IST]
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India and Pakistan will be keen to shrug off their recent home defeats when they clash in a high-pressure one-day series starting here on Monday.

India lost 4-2 to Australia and Pakistan 3-2 to South Africa in last month's one-day series, showing that playing at home is not always an advantage.

India's home series was marred by on-field verbal spats between rival players and racial taunts from the crowd directed at Australia's Andrew Symonds.

Pakistan's Australian coach Geoff Lawson said he hoped the current tour of five one-day internationals and three Tests is incident-free.

"Just look at the recent South Africa-Pakistan series. Both teams played hard, non-compromising cricket but not one bad word was said on the field," said the former Test paceman.

"I hope this series is played in the same spirit. These are two tough opponents, but they should enjoy and respect playing against each other."

Lawson said the team that handled the pressure better would clinch the series.

"It's a little bit more than a cricket game. The team that handles the pressure and tensions better will win," he said.

Despite on-field pressures, relations between the rival players remain remarkably cordial.

Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik and manager Talat Ali visited Indian opener Virender Sehwag's house in New Delhi on Friday to offer condolences on the recent death of the batsman's father.

"It was our duty to be with Sehwag's family in their hour of grief," said Malik.

Pakistan came out on top during their last India tour in 2005 under Inzamam-ul-Haq's captaincy, bouncing back after losing the first two matches to wrap up the one-day series 4-2.

Inzamam has retired, but Pakistan have dangerous batsmen in Mohammad Yousuf, Malik, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi to expose the Indian bowling.

The recall of controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar will give Pakistan a boost as he is capable of testing the Indian batsmen with his pace and variation.

He returned for the fifth and final one-dayer against South Africa after serving a 13-match ban, primarily for hitting team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat ahead of the Twenty20 world championship in South Africa in September.

Akhtar's form will be crucial as Pakistan are already without paceman Asif, ruled out of the first three matches due to an elbow injury.

India may have beaten Pakistan in the world Twenty20 final in South Africa in September, but their 50-over form was inconsistent against Australia.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is looking forward to an improved display from his side and major inputs from youngsters who played a key role in the Twenty20 success.

India will be bolstered by the return of hard-hitting Sehwag, who was axed for the Australia series. He is expected to play a vital role in providing brisk starts with record-breaking Sachin Tendulkar.

Pakistan (from): Shoaib Malik (capt), Younis Khan (vice-capt), Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Rehman, Rao Iftikhar.

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar.

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