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Akhtar hopes wicket assists him

On the track in Bangalore where pace is generally a factor, Pak hold an ace — Shoaib Akhtar, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Dec 07, 2007 03:47 IST
Rohit Mahajan

Shoaib Malik, his left foot in a green cast, bears a rueful smile on his face — the captain, who twisted his ankle after the loss of the first Test at Delhi, will have to miss the third Test.

“Yes, it’s very disappointing, and I wish I’d been able to play,” says Malik, who’s been advised a five-day rest by a local orthopaedic. “But sometimes, that’s how it goes, and no point in worrying over it now.”

Actually, there is a lot of worry in the Indian camp — on this track, where pace is generally a factor, their own new ball attack has been rendered impotent by injuries to their all their first-choice pacemen. And Pakistan clearly hold an ace — Shoaib Akhtar.

Akhtar, back from the nets where he ran in with aggression, his eyes blazing, had had a light repast is relaxed and on the phone, two bright-eyed autograph hunters on his trail. “I hope there is something in the wicket for me,” he says when he finally gets off the talk.

Akhtar, who brashly declares that Pakistan should have won the first Test — which, incidentally, India won by six wickets, with almost a day to spare — could prove to be the decisive factor in Bangalore.

Pakistan have won two of the four Tests they've played at Bangalore, losing none. The last time around, in March 2005, they won by 168 runs, Danish Kaneria and Younis Khan being the stellar performers.

Younis, now the reluctant Pakistan captain, is keen at the nets and during catching after practice, spending most of the time then diving left and right and then springing up to his feet.

He and his mates cheerfully put their names on notebooks and scraps of paper proffered to them.

One man who has a lot of reason to cheer, but who has a habitual air of gloom around him, is Misbah-ul-Haq.