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No point in holding Akhtar back

india Updated: Nov 15, 2007 01:32 IST
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The Indians won at Kanpur because they exploited the opportunities that came their way a lot better than their opponents. Pakistan were always going to find it difficult to reach 295 after Shahid Afridi's early exit. Salman Butt batted well, but at this stage of his career, he is not a matchwinner.

The contrast between the batting of the sides was striking. Just about every Indian player chipped in with handy runs, and the outcome was obvious. For Pakistan, apart from Butt, everyone floundered. Mohali was different, with Younis Khan anchoring the innings and the others batting around him, something the Pakistanis will have to repeat in Gwalior.

There has been some talk about holding Shoaib Akhtar back for the middle overs instead of giving him the new ball, and the Indians playing a right-arm seamer for 'variety'. The wickets in India have nothing for the fast bowlers. The longer Akhtar is held back, the more expensive he will be, for the ball will have lost its shine by the time he marks out his run-up. With the new ball, he can be a handful, and we all know he possesses the ability to strike early. His position at the top of the bowling order should not be tinkered with.

The same is the case with the Indian bowling line-up. Their three left-armers have done well. Both sides will do well to remember they are playing a series of fifty-over games. The bowlers have been a tad too generous so far. Pakistan chased 322 from fifty overs at Mohali, but in reality, they got 53 overs, thanks to sixteen wides and one no-ball! It will be unfair to blame the Indians, though — Pakistan have been far more benevolent.

Pakistan will need to plan well and be flexible if they want to level the series. The Indians have done well on this front. Dhoni's move to come in at No. 4 in Guwahati is an example. Pakistan have the bowling resources to trouble any side and a couple of early strikes by Akhtar and Umar Gul will push the Indians under the pump.