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Analyse this; it could make the difference

With Anil Kumble promising to iron out the weaknesses in his side with an eye on working on the strengths, his Pakistan counterpoint had something else to ponder, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Nov 30, 2007 03:21 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

With Anil Kumble promising to iron out the weaknesses in his side with an eye on working on the strengths, his Pakistan counterpoint had something else to ponder.



Shoaib Malik didn't look so at a pre-match chat with the media, but he must have deeply worried. Weaknesses are outnumbering strengths in his team at the moment.



Various kinds of physical discomforts have hit them so hard that finding 11 able-bodied men has become tougher than facing Shoaib Akhtar. With this as backdrop, whispers were getting louder that Eden Gardens might witness a first — a one-sided India-Pakistan Test. The following are the areas performances in which could determine how the contest would be.



Pakistan



Opening pair:

A problem area for some time now. Numerous combinations have been tried out, none clicked. Salman Butt has chipped in, but at intervals far too long for comfort, while all his partners have been inconsistent despite showing glimpses of class. Yasir Hameed is one of them and the firmness of their team's resistance (or the ferocity of a counterattack) will hinge on how the two lay a foundation.



Middle-order:

One player of enviable class and consistency and another capable of big deeds make the middle-order strong even in the days of chest infections and other ailments. Younis and Yousuf should feel guilty for letting the team down at Kotla. A gasping team needs them as badly as some others need doctors because the rest don't boost confidence.



Fast bowling:

Most ironical that the country's pride is currently an area of prime concern. If Shoaib doesn't play and replacements don't arrive, Pakistan's chances of keeping the series alive may just evaporate. The thought of playing without most frontline pacers against a strong batting unit in these conditions must be frightening.



Spin factor:

Will have to shoulder a bulk of the burden even if Shoaib plays because of the slow nature of the surface. Kaneria's googlies kept Tendulkar guessing for a while at Kotla and he is expected to bowl maximum overs here. How the unknown Abdur Rehman shapes up against some of the best players of spin will also be crucial.



India


Opening pair:

Funny that two players to have done reasonably well of late are under scrutiny for valid reasons. There are some others pushing them which makes consistency the key to survival. On and off the field, Jaffer and Karthik have lots of encouragement and motivation to do well.



Middle-order:

Dhoni's presence after the famous four makes a strong middle-order longer and stronger. It's been a while that a century hasn't come barring against Bangladesh, but the fact that the absence of runs from Dravid hasn't been felt underlines the good job done by others. Pakistan will have a mountain to climb if they come good in the first innings.



Fast bowling:

That Kumble and Harbhajan didn't bag five-wicket hauls and the attack still kept probing means the quicker ones were effective. Zaheer was spot-on, though Munaf wasn't as incisive as he is expected to be. Conditions are unlikely to help after the first hour here, so discipline in that brief period will be of paramount importance.



Spin factor:

The combination of off-spin and leg-spin has won India many matches at home and is expected to put Pakistan under pressure once again. In the last two Tests here, Kumble and Harbhajan were instrumental in spinning victories and will play central roles again in Mission Pakistan.