Green hue may just be a mirage
In a series that has so far seen a thousand runs scored, made bowlers look like novices and appear completely ignorant of their trade, boredom is bound to kill the enthusiasm of even the most passionate cricket fan.
On the eve of the final Test in this city where India last played a Test 16 years back, this feeling of frustration is being dulled by a new sense of hope provided by the greenish hue of the wicket. The last couple of days in Karachi have lifted the spirits of all those who had found Lahore and Faisalabad painful experiences.
Unlike most other sport, cricket is one game in which external factors, like the weather and the wicket, can have far reaching effect on the quality of the contest. A flat wicket can produce a contest that serves no purpose, except help a batsman score and a treacherous track can exaggerate a bowler's skill to the extent of making even a mediocre attack look menacing.
Somewhere, a balance between these two extremes makes a Test match an enthralling experience to watch. How one longs to watch a batsman's skills being tested on a wicket where the bowler can also be the king! On a warm but not an uncomfortable Saturday at the National Stadium here, there were numerous theories floating about the nature of the track. Despite the unanimity on it being a track that will help the bowlers, no one was sure how much the ball would dominate the bat.
While conceding that the wicket will have something for the bowlers initially in it, Rahul Dravid went on the say that this should turn out to be “a very good wicket to bat on”. This observation of the Indian captain means that the Indians are not reading too much into the colour of the wicket and believe that the grass is not green enough to last more than a day.
There were a few others who felt that the grass will be completely shaved off by the time the first ball is bowled on it. If that be the case, then we could well see another high-scoring match.
But all these speculations only go to suggest that there is something in the wicket for both bowlers and the batsmen to make for a lively contest. And the speculation does not end here. It extends to one more important realm and that is the team composition. Pakistan have a major problem. Their most important batsman in the team is not sure about his fitness. Inzamam-ul-Haq's recurring back problem may force him to skip the match.
He himself has not decided whether to play or not. All he said was that he will make this decision on the morning of the match. Pakistan will be hoping and praying that he does play. Without Inzamam, Pakistan will find it difficult to match India and that could be one reason why he might play even if he is 60 per cent fit.
Pakistan would be relieved to know that Shoaib Akhtar is fit, and on a wicket that should assist him, he can turn out to be the match-winner he was supposed to be before the series started.
India (from): Dravid (captain), Sehwag, Laxman, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Dhoni (wk), Pathan, Agarkar, Zaheer, RP Singh, Kumble, Harbhajan, Jaffer, Gambhir and Patel.
Pakistan (from): Inzamam (captain), Butt, Farhat, Younis, Mohd Yousuf, Afridi, Akmal (wk), Razzaq, Mohd Asif, Akhtar, Kaneria, Mohd Sami, Naved-ul-Hasan, Arshad, Gul, Iqbal.
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