Ganguly ready to open on green-top in decider
Indian captain Sourav Ganguly willing to lead from the front by opening the innings and Pakistan ready to unleash their pace battery on a green-top wicket, battle-lines were drawn for a cracking contest between the arch-rivals in the series-deciding third cricket Test beginning on Tuesday.
The honours are even after Pakistan responded to the innings defeat in Multan with a crushing nine-wicket win in Lahore and it would be a test of nerves in the high-voltage decider which both teams are desperate to win.
Besides pride, also at stake for India is a first-ever Test series triumph in this country and a series win away from home in 11 years. A win will also make Ganguly the most successful Indian captain, edging out Mohammed Azharuddin who has 14 wins to his credit.
The "big motivation" was enough for the Indians to field their best-possible combination, which they announced today for the 50th encounter between the Asian powerhouses. Lahore centurion Yuvraj Singh was retained at the expense of opener Aakash Chopra while left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra replaced Ajit Agarkar.
Ganguly, returning to the squad after an injury layoff which saw him miss the first two Tests, put up a brave front and said although it was not decided who would open the batting with Virender Sehwag, he would don the opener's mantle if required.
"Winning a series in Pakistan is a big motivation for us... If we play good cricket the records will take care of themselves," said the Indian captain.
Rival skipper Inzamam-ul Haq, a picture of confidence on the eve of the match, said he would not hesitate to put India in on the seamer-friendly track if he won the toss.
"We will like to bowl first if we win the toss. The victory in the second Test has given us a lot of confidence. Bowling is our strength and the bowlers will be able to exploit the helpful conditions," he said.
The home captain also sought to gain the psychological upperhand, saying his Indian counterpart would be under pressure as he was returning from an injury.
"The captain plays a big part. But I think Ganguly will be under pressure as he has not played the first two Tests. It will be tough for him," Inzamam said.
The Pakistani captain was obviously drawing confidence from the pitch at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, also the home ground of speed demon Shoaib Akhtar, as experts feel the pitch has enough juice to make the batsmen's life difficult.
Although the hosts have yet to decide on a bowler who would partner Shoaib and Mohammed Sami, Inzamam appeared least bothered.
"This wicket will suit our type of bowlers. They are looking forward to bowl in such helpful conditions," he said while revealing that paceman Abdul Rauf had been dropped from the squad of 17.