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'India-Pak series a battle of coaches'

Strategies and mind games thought out by the respective coaches will hold the key to the India-Pak series, former India coach Gaekwad said.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 16:18 IST

Strategies and mind games thought out by the respective coaches will hold the key to the India-Pakistan cricket series which is set to begin in Lahore on Friday, former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad said on Wednesday.

"Considering the current form of the Pakistanis and the huge experience of international cricket that India carries with it, I think both the teams are on equal footing," Gaekwadsaid.

"But the key to the entire series will be the battle royale that will be fought between the two coaches (Bob Woolmer of Pakistan and India coach Greg Chappell) in the dressing rooms," he added.

"It will be their ability to devise strategies, to out-think the opposition, to churn out surprises which will hold the key as to who will win the series," the former Indian opener said.

According to him, there was no place for sterotypes in the present series as both teams had done well in the recent past.

Gaekwad felt that like the Australians, the Pakistanis also played a mental game.

"The Indians need to be mentally tough. And I am sure the players know it," said Gaekwad, the chief coach of Gujarat Ranji Trophy team.

"The dressing room planning and situations are very unlike those that existed when I played for India in the 1970s and 80s," Gaekwad said, adding at that time strategies were planned on the ground and there was no coach to help.

However, Gaekwad, warned against "over-confidence and complacency" after the recent home series against Sri Lankans in which the Indians posted impressive wins in the both the one-dayers and the Tests.

"The current Indo-Pak series will show us where we actually stand in the international arena. I feel the last series against Sri Lanka was too easy for Indians. It was more of Lankans playing badly," Gaekwad added.

He felt that the in-form Pakistan pace battery, led by Shoaib Akhtar was the "biggest threat" for the Indians.

"After a long time, the Pakistanis are playing as a unit. Their batsmen and bowlers are in form," Gaekwad said.

"Getting a good start is the biggest worry for the Indians," he said referring to openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir who were found wanting against the Sri Lankan attack on placid Indian wickets.

"If the openers can get rid of the first spell, especially on the Lahore wicket (venue for the first Test) where the ball tends to seam at this time of the year, then things would become easier for the Indians," he said.

Gaekwad, who played 40 Test matches for India between 1974 and 1987 and had toured Pakistan as a player, felt that seeing off the initial spell from the Pakistanis held the key to Indians posting a good total on the board.

He, however, was non-committal on who should be Sehwag's opening partner or whether Sourav Ganguly should be considered ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the middle order.

"It is for the team management to decide. They should see as to who is more confident (between Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffar) in the opener's slot and choose the one who has better chances of succeeding in Pakistani conditions," he said.

Talking about the middle-order slot, Gaekwad said "experience-wise Ganguly holds an upper hand, but he is under pressure and is not in the best of form. Yuvraj is in form and is doing good," Gaekwad said.

"Like all Indo-Pak series, this upcoming series will definitely be a spectators' delight," he concluded.