Afridi may help tame visitors

Pakistan did everything but win in Karachi. In Pindi, it's all they want to do, writes Avirook Sen.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2004 01:13 IST

Two things are occupying Pakistani mindspace as this goes to press: the failure of the tribal armies in South Waziristan to get Al-Qaeda suspects to surrender as Colin Powell comes calling. And the failure of Pakistan's bowling attack to tame an in-form India.

From the looks of it, the first issue isn't likely to be settled any time soon. But the second, will, at least for a day, be decided in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan did everything but win in Karachi. In Pindi, it's all they want to do.

So a few changes will probably be made — mostly in the bowling department.

The Pakistanis faced mild criticism (one of the advantages of playing the opening match of a goodwill tour) after their loss in Karachi. Why wasn't Shahid Afridi in the side? Why did Inzamam choose to bowl first? Why did the Rawalpindi Express choose to impersonate a goods train? And is this the worst bowling line-up Javed Miandad has ever seen?

The questions have been asked fairly politely. (Mercifully, Miandad's response to the last was less polite and more Miandad: "I've seen plenty of Indian bowling line-ups that have been worse.") But forget the critics and the press, it was India that asked the most important questions on the field.

With Pakistan in search of answers, Afridi may well find a place in Tuesday's side at the cost of one of Pakistan's two young openers. He'll also provide a sixth bowling option for Inzamam-ul-Haq.

There's also talk of Shabbir Ahmad coming in for Mohammad (no-ball) Sami. And the day-night situation may suit the bowlers just a little bit more, according to former Test cricketer Rameez Raja.

If one were to put together a rough guide to winning for each side, it would read something like this. Pakistan: do not bowl wicket-taking no-balls (Shoaib to Sachin); take early chances (Shoaib Malik dropped a hot one from Sehwag); do not concede 349.

In India's case everything is far simpler: keep taking the greatest catches of all time (Kaif); keep bowling unreal final overs under pressure (Nehra, who, however, may not play in Pindi); keep scoring 349.

"The pressure is on them", Sourav Ganguly had said before setting off for Pakistan. In Rawalpindi on Tuesday, it truly will be.

This is good news for India. The bad news from the spectator's point of view is that after Karachi everything is likely to appear tame.

First Published: Mar 16, 2004 00:18 IST