India to go all out against 'injured' Pak

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2007, 3:35 [IST]
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Kolkata: The in-form Indian team will walk into the Eden Gardens morrow, aiming to wrap up the Test series against a struggling Pakistan side that has sent a clarion call back home to seek fresh replacement to boost their rag-tag outfit.

Indian has already won the first Test at Feroz Shah Kotla by a convincing six wickets and is riding the crest now with the vaunted top-order coming into their elements.

Indian skipper Anil Kumble meant business and before the Kolkata made it clear he eyeing to wrap up the series here, without leaving it for Bangalore.

''We want to wrap up the Test series with a win here. India has not won a single Test series against Pakistan on the home soil. We want to do that. We hope to carry on the momentum from the Delhi and put up a formidable performance,'' Kumble asserted.

''We don't want to let them off-the-hook. We have to tighten the screws as early as possible and put up a big score before them or get them out cheaply,'' he added.

With the exception of Dinesh Karthik, everyone else has been among runs. While Wasim Jaffer was elegant on his back and front foot, cutting and driving, Rahul Dravid looked in vintage touch.

On the otherhand, Sourav Ganguly looked at his flamboyant best, while Sachin Tendulkar anchored the victory to show he is the genius of Indian cricket.

This ground has special significance for VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the duo scoring tons at ease at this majestic venue every now and then. While, Laxman scored a magnificent unbeaten 275, Rahul partnered him with an undefeated 155 to plot a brilliant coup against the mighty Aussies, who came to Kolkata winning 16 Tests on a trot and the 90000 odd spectators would be dying for another such run fest.

Kumble said there was a role for everyone to play in the team.

''We are playing as an unit and we hope to continue to do that. There are certain places where we could have done better. Like in the first innings after the unfortunate run-out, we lost a few wickets in a heap. That is something we would like to correct.''

"Sourav Ganguly will be having a greater role to play with the ball in addition to his batting responsibilities in his home ground." He also hinted at mainting the same bowling line-up.

On whether it was a fair assumption that the winning combination would be retained, he said, ''That is a very fair assumption. Everyone is fit for selection. But the final eleven will be decided only after talking to Chairman of Selectors Dilip Vensargar after he arrives this evening.''

Asked about the importance of the toss and the nature of the Eden wicket, Kumble said, ''We would rather try to keep things within our control. I have kept toss out of my equation. If we bat first we have to put up a big score and if we bowl first we have to take quick wickets.''

The wicket would be a slow turner and both the captains felt it would take spin later in the match.

The overflowing cup of woes for Pak: In contrast the Pakistan team, still smarting from some crucial retirements and exodus, is a side rebuilding itself under Aussie coach Geoff Lawson. In the ongoing series, the visitors felt the absence of their former skipper Inzamam-ul Haq, who was their crisis man for years.

Apart from Inzy, the absence of all-rounder Abdur Razzak was also sorely felt and injury to pacer Mohammad Asif was a crucial blow to their bowling attack, so much so that Mohammad Sami was recalled from cricket wilderness to bolster an inexperienced bowling attack led by comeback man Shoaib Akhtar.

The situation worsened after skipper Shoaib Mallik went for a fitness test this morning. Later he told newsmen, ''I tried a bit of jogging and running. But the ankle is hurting. I will take a fitness test tomorrow again to see the condition.'' ''However, Umar Gul has been sent back home for treatment. We have talked to the selectors and asked for urgent replacement.

The new players are expected to arrive by this evening.

''It's a do-or-die situation for us. We are struggling and moreover, have so many injuries in the side. But we will have to give our best,'' he added.

Asked who were the replacements, Malik said, ''That is confidential. We have given a list of names and it is for the selectors to decide.'' While Malik himself is doubtful, there is also a big question mark over both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami as both were recovering from a viral infection. Pakistan' most consistent middle-order batsman Misbah-ul Haq is also to appear for a fitness test morrow before the match commences. However, he is expected to do well.

For the visitors, it seems stitching together a final eleven is becoming a problem. ''You can't play a Test match without four specialist bowlers,'' Malik said.

With Sohail Tanvir fit and the team management putting in their extra best to get Akhtar on to the field, natural choice for the third seamer would be Rao Iftikar Anjum who would be coming in as Gul's replacement in the squad.

Meanwhile, with Danish Kaneria providing spin at one end, discarded all-rounder Sahid Afridi could be asked to join the side tonight itself to help Kaneria in the spin department.

The lack of depth in the side has been overexposed during the series and it was the individual brilliance of Salman Butt, who has a penchant for scoring against India, and Mohammed Yousuf or Younis Khan, have barely left them floating.

Trailing 1-0 in the Tests and having already lost the one-day series 3-2 at the hands of the hosts, the injury scares now have added salt to Lawson's wound as he seemed a worried man at the nets.

Pakistan would want the crisis man Misbah (if he clears fitness test) to play a bigger role if they are to give a fight to the hosts, who are yet to make wrong step in the war of the arch-rivals. There is also a chance of Faisal Iqbal wearing the national colours if the replacements were not adequate or does not arrive in time.

Security beefed up: Meanwhile, in the wake of the e-mail threat to trigger blasts during the Indo-Pak tie here, about 5,000 policemen would be deployed in and around the Eden Gardens as the city of joy gears up for the second Test amid an unprecedented security blanket.

Assuring extraordinary security measures, Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty said all possible steps were being taken against any terror attack during the five-day tie.

''Besides the standard procedures, we have beefed up the security by taking up some extraordinary measures. Every spectator will have to pass through a three-layer security check-up while entering the stadium.


India: Anil Kumble (capt), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Wasim Jaffer, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh and S Sreeshanth.

Pakistan: Shoaib Mallik (capt), Younis Khan, Mohammed Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, Salman Butt, Yasser Hamid, Danish Kaneria, Kamran Akmal (wk), Sohail Tanvir, Mohammed Sami, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdur Rehman, Misbah-ul Haq and Sarfaraz Ahmed (stand-by wk).


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