India are capable of a miracle in Test series too
India achieved the seemingly impossible by beating Pakistan on their home turf in a One Day series. Now they have the opportunity to produce another miracle by winning their first Test in Pakistan.
Going into the Test series India has a couple of advantages over Pakistan, the most important being the momentum of the win in the Samsung Cup. The best way to capitalise on that advantage is to attack their opponents from the outset in Multan.
Although the One Day series finished on a refreshingly cheerful note and the Pakistan team didn't suffer any backlash for losing, Inzamam ul-Haq and his players will naturally be a little apprehensive.
This is the time for India to strike hard in an attempt to maintain the psychological supremacy. If they achieve that early in the Multan Test then Pakistan may experience some fan backlash and it will then be hard for them to come back later in the series.
On the other hand, if Pakistan are allowed to regain confidence in the opening Test they may then become hard to stop.
There was a cohesive spirit about India's play in the One Day series that resulted in them producing a more planned performance than Pakistan's misguided meanderings. It is this spirit and planning that could see them overcome any bowling advantage Pakistan appears to have on paper.
As my old coach used to tell me, "Ian, the trouble is the game's played on turf not paper."
Pakistan definitely has a speed advantage when it comes to bowling but this can quickly become a disadvantage if it's not used wisely. There are times when Shoaib Akhtar appears to place more importance on speed than taking wickets and on these occasions he bowls fast but without a plan.
Mohammad Sami is also faster than his Indian counterparts but is often ineffective with the new ball, as a result of trying to compete with his opening partner's pace. Any early waywardness on their part will be pounced on by Virender Sehwag and that could prove fatal.
The ideal start for India would be to bat first in order to utilise their strong line-up to hammer home the hard won advantage of the Samsung Cup victory. A decent first innings score made quickly would let Pakistan know India is seeking victory and also give the bowlers the opportunity to exploit a wearing pitch.
This would provide Sachin Tendulkar with a chance to bowl his leg-breaks and used at the right times and in an attacking role he could take vital wickets. Some of the Pakistan batsmen are hesitant against leg-spin and he would be a viable back-up to Anil Kumble on a helpful pitch. The other area the Indian bowlers need to exploit is a frailty at the top of the order against the swinging ball.
Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan are an ideal combination to capitalise on helpful conditions and if they do it successfully then a lot of pressure will fall on Inzamam as not only the most skillful Pakistan batsman but also the one best qualified to make a big score.
Despite Pakistan's frailties there's little between the two teams. However, the momentum is with India and not least because they now know miracles can occur in Pakistan.