India should go in with an extra bowler
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India should go in with an extra bowler

There is not a lot separating the two sides and both will be at their wits end as to what can be done to get that decisive edge in the series, writes Arun Lal.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2004 18:10 IST
Arun Lal

There is not a lot separating the two sides and both will be at their wits end as to what can be done to get that decisive edge in the series. So far, they have had to play out of their skins just to stay competitive and that is what is so frightening. This pressure -- that the opposition is not showing even the slightest sign of wilting -- maybe the deciding factor in the end.

The Indians sans Ashish Nehra, look to be the side in a bit of trouble and will have to make some hard decisions. The bowlers have been the ones at the receiving end so far and their confidence must have been dented somewhat. I believe it's imperative to strengthen the bowling and go in with five specialists and rely on six batsmen to do the job.

On these wickets, the standby bowlers like Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj must be the sixth bowling option and not the fifth. In case one of the bowlers has an off day, which is quite likely, then the team is left with only three bowlers and is left struggling, especially if they lack experience as well.

Moreover, the seventh batsman does not get enough time in any case and is wasted if he has to slog at everything. Particularly, if the batsman is Mohammad Kaif, who is more a grafter than a boundary hitter and must come ahead in the order -- at least at number six. With no Nehra, I would definitely go with both Pathan and Amit Bhandari at the expense of either Kaif or Laxman.

The difference between the two sides is Pakistan's edge in the bowling in the slog overs. They conceded only 25 from the last 5 at Karachi and literally won the match at Rawalpindi. All the more reason for India to play the extra bowler in Peshawar. Besides, it's important to use only the quicker bowlers during the slog as the spinner can have one extremely expensive over, as was the case in Rawalpindi.

Ganguly's form will be another cause for concern. He is undoubtedly best utilised at the top of the order. If he is not opening the innings, which is the logical conclusion, then Dravid on current form must come ahead at number three as he looks to be the one most likely to play the long innings.

The wicket at Peshawar from all counts is expected to be similar. Both sides are taking risks in order to put pressure on the bowlers at the start. It's important that the bowlers, especially Zaheer, stick to the basics of line and length and not get carried away.

It's almost certain that the side that wins the toss will bat and since it is a day game, the early morning freshness can only be exploited, if you can put the ball in the right areas. In fact, it's quite possible that if the bowlers get it right in the first hour the trend of massive scores may be halted.

First Published: Mar 19, 2004 00:01 IST